Collective Impact is a methodology that enables multiple organisations to work together to tackle complex, often unresolved, social and environmental challenges, often over multi-year initiatives. The language of collective impact was first proposed in 2011 through a Stanford Social Innovation Review Paper, which started somewhat of a revolution globally. Collective Impact has since evolved considerably thanks to enormous numbers of projects all over the world using the framework to varying degrees of success.
In New Zealand we have some strong examples of collective impact, particularly in kaupapa māori contexts. I'm personally involved with three collective impact projects, and have co-written a research paper on the evolution of collective impact for Aotearoa, with a supporting infographic on this evolution and opportunities moving forward.
I'm a proponent of ideas proposed by the Tamarack Institute in their paper Collective Impact 3.0, which has been very influential on my thinking for social enterprise and organisational design also. In this framing, collective impact utilises a movement-building mindset to enable multiple players to work together in pursuit of shared desired outcomes even if or when they are competing with one-another. Collective impact is best suited for complex, often unresolved, social and environmental challenges where there is no 'best practice' or even 'good practice' solution - think child poverty, consumer plastic addiction, social enterprise sector establishment, mental illness, homelessness and related challenges…
The core ‘ingredients’, known as the ‘Five Conditions of Collective Impact’, speak to both a high-trust environment and a deep collective desire to exert change:
The Five Conditions of Collective Impact 3.0
1. Shared Community Aspiration
Common overarching desired outcome, backed up by individual organisational understanding of their more specific desired outcomes and roles in contributing to the overarching outcome.
2. Culture of Strategic Learning
A culture of driving progress towards outcomes as the main priority, emphasising the sharing of key lessons across all players and a minimum of traditional output reporting and compliance as strictly necessary. Recognises the difference between contribution and attribution.
3. High Leverage Activities
Designing operations to support and maximise the impact of each others work, striving for multiplier effects wherever possible. This speaks of deep operational collaboration and information sharing.
4. Inclusive Community Engagement
Open and inclusive approaches to identifying desired outcomes, tracking progress and learning, and growing and improving services. Including ‘real people on the ground’ at all stages, ongoing.
5. Containers for Change
Supporting infrastructure to facilitate the ongoing inclusion, learning, and change within and across organisations. Holding a space where participants are supported and challenged enough to work together.
I'm always happy to discuss collective impact with anyone who thinks they may be already working on something similar to this, or who thinks it would be helpful.