Bringing Collective Impact to Fruition
Stimulated in part by the Foundation Strategy Group’s seminal article on collective impact (Kania and Kramer, 2011), there has been a much-needed resurgence of place-based social reform initiatives in the past several years. In our May 2013 In Focus we observed that several of the requirements of the collective impact model were embedded within urban-reform programs of the past – most notably the requirement for cross-sector collaboration. These efforts were known as comprehensive community initiatives (CCIs). As evaluators of several of these CCIs, we at Metis have documented the power of cross-sector collaboration as a means for attaining needed reforms, and so we welcome the reappearance and refinement of this approach.
When we began our own work on the evaluation of CCIs more than two decades ago, we asked simply if the right organizations were present at a community’s “collaboration table,” and if they were willing to share their data. These, we thought, were the key levers to assure success. Then Kania and Kramer taught us to also ask if the participating organizations shared a common agenda and engaged in mutually reinforcing activities. And while we believe that this supplement makes a great deal of sense, we caution that achieving a common agenda might be easier said than done—especially when these organizations have a history of competing for funding, and, in some cases, for populations to serve.
As we discuss in our current In Focus article, groups participating in a collective impact initiative may require substantial changes in their organizational cultures in order to support the collective’s common agenda. With our partner, gothamCulture —an organizational development consulting group—we are currently exploring a nuanced set of evaluation questions associated with organizations’ readiness for cultural change and their receptivity to undergoing the requisite change management procedures. Finding ways to bring about the cultural shift that would enable participating organizations to step out of their traditional patterns of behavior may be another key to unlocking the full potential of collective impact.
– Stanley Schneider, President