Last week I wrote about the trend of Collective Impact and how thinking collaboratively can be useful for Boards. The main tenets of collective impact are collaboration toward a common goal, coordination of activities, measurement of progress, communication and accountability to a “backbone organization.” In thinking about a best example of collective impact in Los Angeles to share, I turned to one of my favorite groups, Social Venture Partners Los Angeles (SVP).
SVP is made up of partners – individuals who invest in social mission organizations by pooling funds to support a portfolio of organizations. There are SVP chapters across the globe made up of partners who give their time and expertise to local organizations to help them grow. So if anyone knows about bringing groups of people together for the greater good, it’s SVP.
“SVP tries to help its members understand trends, so this is something we’ve been thinking about for a while,” says SVP Los
Angeles Executive Director Diane Helfrey. In fact, other SVP chapters have fully committed themselves to collective impact initiatives. For example, SVP Portland actually acts as a backbone for the Ready for Kindergarten component of the county’s “Cradle to Career” initiative – a project involving over 70 organizations designed to improve early learning in the county.
Like most non-profit organizations seeking to make a difference, SVP Los Angeles was interested in collective impact, but not ready to take on the role of being the ‘backbone’ organization, says Helfrey, “our Partners were interested, but we didn’t feel like we could drive the agenda given the size of SVP here relative to the size of the need in Los Angeles.” So they did the next best thing and looked to invest in organizations that were “headed down the road” of collective impact.
Their search led them to South LA Child Welfare Initiative (SLACWI); a collaborative of eight organizations working for the benefit of children aged 0-5. The collaborative seeks to unite services around families with young children, specifically in the areas of health, parenting, and housing. The appeal to SVP of this initiative was that it embodied the best practices of a collective impact initiative and was starting to see real results for families. SLACWI is “raising the bar in terms of timeliness and efficiency” of referrals and service to families in need, says Helfrey. “There are now standard processes and protocols on how to serve children and families with high-risk factors.”
In addition to investing funds in SLACWI, SVP is also currently providing the expertise of its partners in the areas of marketing and branding. And like any good partnership, SVP has learned from SLACWI. According to Helfrey, the partnership “has reinforced some things we thought we knew about collective impact” namely that collaborating organizations need to be on the same level in terms of commitment, governance, and vision. But the true key to the success of the collaboration, says Helfrey, is “accountability of your peers. They have an amazing project director, but it’s the CEOs that need to keep each other accountable.”