Collective Impact is a framework for creating large scale social and systems change. It is an innovative and structured approach to tackling deeply entrenched and complex social problems by making collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organisations and citizens. Premised on the belief that no single policy, government department, organisation or program can tackle or solve the increasingly complex social problems we face as a society, Collective Impact calls for multiple organisations or entities from different sectors to abandon their own agenda in favour of a common agenda, shared measurement and alignment of effort.
John Kania and Mark Kramer first wrote about Collective Impact in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011. Here they identified 5 key elements of the framework:
1) A common agenda – Everyone must agree on one goal, a shared vision of what needs to change.
2) A shared measurement system – Members need to agree on a method of measurement and evaluation. Key indicators ensure all work is aligned to the common purpose, and also embed accountability into actions.
3) Mutually reinforcing activities – Each member will contribute to the collective work according to their skills and resources, so each piece of work will be unique. Coordination of these varying activities is essential to ensure work retains relevance to the projects direction.
4) Continuous communication – Collective work cannot progress without trust from all parties. This requires regular, transparent communication over a long period of time.
5) Backbone organisation – Supporting infrastructure is key to progressing collective work with time poor members. Backbone support ensures projects retain focus and momentum without being hamstrung by processes. Backbone members should also be key advocates and relationship instigators for the collective work.
Mark Cabaj and Liz Weaver of the Tamarack Institute extended the model in 2016 to include the following 6 evolutions:
Collective Impact 3.O
- From a managerial paradigm to a movement building paradigm
- From continuous communication to authentic community engagement
- From common agenda to shared aspiration
- From shared measurement to strategic learning
- From mutually reinforcing activities to a focus on high-leverage opportunities
- From backbone support to a container for change