Exploring Collective Impact

imageBy: Lindsey Greenberg, Gateway Center for Giving

Although it is not necessarily new, the concept of collective impact is growing and sparking conversations around the country.  Collective impact is defined by the Stanford Social Innovation Review as “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem”.  In their most recent report Collective Impact, authors John Kania and Mark Kramer note that “large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations”.

The report outlines five conditions of success for a collective impact initiative to be successful: 1) Common agenda, 2) Shared measurement systems, 3) Mutually reinforcing activities, 4) Continuous communication, and 5) Backbone support organizations.  It highlights Strive, a nonprofit subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, which has brought together leaders to tackle the student achievement crisis and improve education throughout greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.

A group of Gateway Center for Giving members and local funders came together to watch a webinar organized by FSG and SSIR that discussed the study, the success of Strive, and how organizations can develop and implement collective impact initiatives and how these initiatives can achieve impact.  The speakers stressed that these types of initiatives require a fundamental change in how funders see their role- moving away from individual achievement toward collaborative success.

After the webinar the conversation turned to collective impact initiatives that have been attempted or are currently taking place in the St. Louis region.  The group discussed the importance of “backbone” organizations and how new methods of measuring the results of these organizations are necessary.

What is your take on this report and this concept?  What has been missing from the collective impact initiatives that have taken place in the region? We want to hear from you!

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