By: Richard Patton, Executive Director- Vision for Children at Risk (VCR)
About 18 months ago, via broadcast, email Vision for Children at Risk shared a link with a wide range of St. Louis area organization to an article on “collective impact” that had just come out in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR). That led to a discussion with several area nonprofits (Vision for Children at Risk and Beyond Housing and its 24:1 initiative) and local funders (Incarnate Word Foundation and Deaconess Foundation) exploring the possible use of a collective impact approach in St. Louis to address children’s issues.
In April 2011, a blog appeared in this spot examining how the collective impact approach might be employed in St. Louis. A season of meetings and forums on collective impact followed, initiated by the Incarnate Word and Deaconess Foundations sponsoring a visit to St. Louis by representatives of the Strive Partnership in Cincinnati — an initiative that the authors of the original “Collective Impact” article have identified as a best-in-class example of the approach. The purpose of that initial series of meetings was to raise the awareness of St. Louis area funders and nonprofits about the concept of collective impact and to present detailed information on its use. Additional forums followed, one sponsored by the Nonprofit Services Center in June and another by the Rome Group and Gateway Center for Giving in July.
In subsequent months a delegation from St. Louis attended the Strive National Network Convening in Portland, Oregon. Meanwhile in the St. Louis region nearly a score of local initiatives emerged citing collective impact as a core principle of their work. Some initiatives, such as the Nine Network’s American Graduate, have invested the time and effort to fully explore the concept and understand the details and nuances involved in employing a collective impact approach. In other instances it is not altogether clear whether some of the initiatives have a precise grasp of what is entailed in establishing a true collective impact undertaking, as much as they are simply invoking the term. Read the rest of this entry »