Businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, foundations, and social enterprises. While different in structure, these institutions and the leaders behind them share an essential belief — society needs truly effective high impact change that moves the needle on critical issues like health equity, poverty reduction, and educational justice.
For more than a decade, dedicated people from many different such types of institutions have been creating localized eco-systems of change. These ecosystems are known as ‘collective impact models.’ Originating in North Carolina and popularized by the work of authors in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, collective impact has rightfully gained traction as the most viable model for genuinely effective change that makes real differences in communities.
In this article we’ll take a look at some of the best measured examples of collective impact and get insight into the power of the Collective Impact model to bring about shifts in community wide outcomes.
The StrivePartnership educational initiative in Cincinnati is an example that portrays the influence collective impact can have on a community. This initiative, established in 2006, aimed to address and improve the educational system in Cincinnati, Ohio and Northern Kentucky by helping students accel in their academic journey at every stage of their life – “from cradle to career”.
They utilized the model successfully by bringing together over 300 local community leaders and organizations from different sectors who believed in the importance of education to better understand the needs of the community they lived in. All participants agreed to collaborate with each other through a well-structured process to measure and ensure student progress, while also learning and supporting each other. They understood that an individual leader or organization, however successful, cannot accomplish this goal by oneself. This partnership directly lead to major improvements in the educational system of that region. The region saw a significant increase in graduate rates, students GPA, and even child readiness leading into kindergarten.
As of today, StrivePartnership still shows an ongoing improvement of student success based on the shared key performance indicators. They continually aspire to enhance the well-being of the community through education. In their mission to strengthen the educational system in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, they are now focusing on ensuring racial and economic equity. Due to the success of StrivePartnership and their use of the collective impact model, a few leaders from StriveParnership established StriveTogether Cradle-to-Career Network in hopes of replicating this initiative in other communities nationwide. Their journey of improving the education system in America has a strong foundation with the use of this model laying at its core.
Collective Impact has also been successfully used in initiatives aimed to alleviate poverty. Tamarack Institute partnered with J. W. McConnell Family Foundation and Caledon Institute of Social Policy to establish Vibrant Communities in 2002. They worked with 13 trail builders cities and community leaders for ten years with the common goal to reduce poverty in Canada. The first year was dedicated to learn about the community’s needs related to poverty and engage the population to think about ways to eradicate poverty. Specific strategies for each community were built based on the knowledge gained that first year. These strategies primarily involved a multi-sector network of local leaders, non-profits, and businesses who work together with a well-structured methodology to improve different areas of poverty that affects education, employment, and overall health among many others.
The co-founder of Tamarack Institute, Paul Born, felt that one of the most pivotal successes of this initiative came from empowering individuals to believe in their own ability to truly make an impact in alleviating poverty. During a 10 year span, Vibrant Communities led to a poverty reduction of 10% in several communities that impacted over 200,000 low income Canadians.
This success can be explained by an understanding from all partners to address poverty through better systems that can have a lasting impact on a population level. Due to the success of Vibrant Cities, Cities Reducing Poverty was created in 2012 as a movement to replicate the collective impact model used by Vibrant Communities in other cities and communities. Over the years, Cities Reducing Poverty has developed poverty alleviation strategies that over 175 cities are now successfully using to collectively work towards reducing poverty in their communities. Tamarack Institute shares case studies and helpful resources on collective impact on their website if you are interested to know more or to use a collective impact model in your community.
These initiatives share the five core conditions of Collective Impact: common agenda, a continuous communication, a shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities, and a backbone function. Although Collective Impact might not be the only way to resolve social issues, these five core conditions has proved to be powerful in addressing complex social problems to bring about social change on a large scale.
To learn more about collective impact, check out these wonderful resources:
Foundation Strategy Group (FSG)
Collective Impact (Stanford Social Innovation Review – SSIR)
Does Collective Impact really make an impact? (SSIR)