Collective Impact: Working Differently-- Together-- To Achieve Different Results

June 13, 2016
Author: Bill Crim

There are two communities that sit along the Wasatch Front, separated by less than 12 miles. In the first, fewer than 1 in 25 kids fail to graduate from high school. In the other, upwards of 1 in 5 kids fail to graduate.

If you look back at the last several decades at most any social condition, you will see a similar reality. Collectively, despite massive and well-meaning investments, we have not closed the achievement gap, eliminated health disparities, or changed the fact that entrenched poverty persists. We have not mastered the art of replicating good, local successes at scale. This is a problem that affects all of us, and it is the reality that Collective Impact aims to solve.

Collaboration is not a new idea. Whether in our families, places of work or worship, or the broader community, we have grown accustomed to working together. Collective Impact, practiced in its most rigorous form is different because of its:

  • Focus on a specific and measureable, community-level social problem. What makes rigorous forms of Collective Impact different is that progress is based on improvement across entire schools, communities or regions (rather than on improvement solely within particular programs or services).

  • Insistence on cross-sector collaboration. Collective Impact creates the space for innovation by bringing what might seem like unlikely allies together.

  • Constant use of data. Rigorous Collective Impact partnerships do more than look at data that is updated annually. We locate high-quality data that is available frequently to study and adapt what we do day-to-day.

  • Challenge to each non-profit, business, school, district, government entity, volunteer, and resident that is involved to move out of their mission-defined silos. Partners in collective impact partnerships ask themselves daily: what new work can we do to align with others around the social problem for which we are accountable?

  • Support from a “backbone.” A backbone’s sole job is to foster the conditions where cross-sector groups can work together, doing new work to achieve different community results.

Together with more than 150 amazing partners, United Way of Salt Lake shares accountability for achieving results that we don’t fully control. Our shared mission, with the businesses, non-profits, philanthropies, government entities, and school districts with whom we learn every day is to help every child in this community succeed in school, go to college, and have a financially stable and healthy life.

Join me in October at GIVE for lively discussions about the high-quality Collective Impact partnerships can play in achieving the conditions that we want for all of our children. Learn more about a rigorous approach to Collective Impact in the Promise Partnership Regional Council’s second annual report. And let us know today if, in the meantime, you would like to start a conversation with us about aligning our considerable resources to achieve results that matter.