Leadership and Collective Impact

Posted by Lissa Widoff on Wednesday, August 1 2012


Lissa Widoff

Many of us are keenly aware that to achieve positive outcomes on any complex, systemic, societal issue, whether it is environmental, economic or social in nature, we need to find ways to work collaboratively. This is by no means a new idea. But the realities of differing organizational missions, leadership styles, definitions of the problem and different funding sources, can be an obstacle to collectively finding solutions or simply “moving the needle” in the right direction.  Funders, organizational theorists and many practitioners are beginning to develop a body of practice known as “Collective Impact”. The basic idea is that if organizations define the larger systemic problem they are all working to address, they can then coordinate their contribution to problem-solving rather than compete.  Many funders are driving this kind of shift in thinking by supporting the planning and coordination work, and the identification of success measures that the participating organizations all work towards.  Quite often a “backbone” organization is selected or created to facilitate the network of organizations that need transparency about how their respective efforts are contributing to the desired result.

Here are some resources to learn more about this approach, current examples and new forums that are sharing information about these approaches.  One of the interesting aspects of this work to me is that the work of a single organization can move beyond a narrow mission and take on issues at a larger while still valuing the more localized efforts.   If you are involved in such efforts, or have other examples to share, please comment.

Consulting companies working in this realm:

FSG: http://www.fsg.org/OurApproach/CollectiveImpact.aspx

Monitor Institute


Collective Impact, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011

Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work, Stanford Social Innovation Review, January 2012

Case Studies:

Transformer: How to Build a Network to Change a System: A case study of the RE-AMP Energy Network

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