The challenges and obstacles that nonprofits face in achieving their mission extend beyond just the walls of the organization and those served. Social problems are systemic issues and have very complex, broad-spanning effects. One successful way of tackling the social problems we face is to form a Collective Impact Approach as part of the strategic planning process.
What is Collective Impact? Collective Impact is the ability to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems in an innovative and structured approach to making collaboration work across government, business, communities, philanthropy, and nonprofits to achieve significant and lasting social change. It is about getting all the RIGHT people focused and working together toward a specific goal or mission.
Who should be involved? Generating systemic change requires the combined efforts of all the key people and organizations impacted by the system. For example, a homeless shelter has systemic challenges that reach to employers, childcare providers, municipal and state government, transportation providers, housing developers, healthcare providers, local businesses, community members, donors, and many others. All these stakeholder groups are involved in the system, but may not know or see it. And they may not understand how they could participate to make a difference.
To make systemic change work requires the ability to convene these stakeholder groups and the key decision-makers in a strategic and intentional approach. This extends beyond just engaging them in the planning process, it is keeping them as active participants in a process that utilizes their skill, influence, capacity, and decision-making.
How do we start? Any type of systemic change will take time. To set expectations up front, successful Collective Impact Approach will take 3–5 years. The first year may be spent finding the RIGHT people and decision-makers to join the collective impact group. During that year, a project map and goals may be designed for the group. During year two the group may explore a narrowly focused pilot project as the start of their change approach. Given social challenges are such complex systems, it is vital to success that a pilot project be simple and narrow in scope.
As the pilot project builds momentum and measurements start to reveal themselves, decisions can be made to stop, scale, and/or adjust the pilot. The success of this type of approach is driven by the involvement of all the RIGHT people who can bring influence, resources, capacity, expertise, and action to the implementation.
Next steps? If you are interested in learning more about a Collective Impact Approach or have questions, please reach out and we can schedule a time to discuss.