Collective impact is a buzzword as of late, but at its core it is a framework that was developed in 2011 to support community change leaders much like yourselves. This framework looks to bring together various stakeholders to engage in cross-sectoral collaboration (The Tamarack Institute 2018). This means that Instead of working in silos or working parallel to one another potentially undermining another person’s work or worse, reproducing the same work, we create innovative systems of change that have the capacity to meaningfully support our community (The Tamarack Institute 2018).
There are five pillars to collective impact:
- Have a common agenda
- Have a shared measurement system
- Have mutually reinforcing activities
- Build trust with continuous communication
- identify a backbone support organization
A common agenda is fundamental as it solidifies the shared vision, while shared measurements make coordination of data much easier. Mutually reinforcing activities ensure that the wheels are always turning, thus workflow is always moving forward in a positive way. One of the most important pillars in my perspective is constant communication. The reason programs and projects are reproduced in the community is due to the lack of shared information within as well as outside of sectors. The image above shows us that individual impact, though meaningful in it’s approach can produce disorder. Constant communication ensures that information is shared equally, that nothing is being reproduced, and it promotes healthy growing partnerships. The last pillar, identifying a backbone support organization, is important because it acts as the center of all activity. If additional resources are needed the backbone support organization would be the place to get them, it also acts as a coordinator of roles and expectations for participating organizations and or businesses.
Though the above stated are the five main pillars, I move to add an additional pillar when thinking about collective impact. When we have a common agenda, a shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and a backbone support organization, we must also be mindful that our collaborative effort has a much greater purpose; greater than ourselves. For example, does it bring the voices of those who may be systemically marginalized or underrepresented to the forefront? Does it leverage the available knowledge & resources towards providing better services, or supports for those who need it? It is important to remember that the collective impact mandate is not to serve one’s own means but to utilize the talent and perseverance that comes from leaders representing a variety of working sectors in order to collaboratively innovate and bring change on a much larger scale.