For the last few years, it seems like you can’t go to any meeting or conference without hearing the phrase “collective impact.” Collective impact, the process of addressing an issue as a community instead of as an organization, is effective and efficient. This article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review gives a great overview of collective impact’s success and best practices.
The defining characteristic of the collective impact movement is that it aligns many community organizations and holds them accountable to a common set of goals. This way of making impact has become increasingly appealing to funders, so now is a good time to start thinking about how your organization can participate. Additionally, I think the tenets of collective impact offer great strategies for organizational growth so I’ve put together a few ways to start thinking about collective impact with your board.
- Always consider collaboration as an option. During strategic planning processes, board retreats, or when planning in general, make sure to include the conversation about partnerships for reaching goals. Many times when executive committees plan for the year ahead, they will have a list of goals and objectives to meet. It is often a helpful exercise to consider if any of those goals can be met through partnerships with other agencies.
- Consider all the areas we “touch.” Every collective impact initiative has a “backbone organization” leading the charge and coordinating efforts. It’s a useful exercise to consider in what areas your organization could be considered a leader, a backbone, or a coordinator of a large scale effort. A health care clinic, for example, might rightly assume they could be the backbone of a city-wide initiative, but they should also consider their supporting role in addressing poverty, education, and even environmental issues.
- Know your “complementors.” It’s a great board member project to examine the external environment and to know and understand what organizations do complementary work to your organization. Whether it is organizations that are geographically close or organizations that serve a similar population, it’s important to know the services that surround your community.
- Be accountable to your goals. The collective impact initiatives that are the most successful have strict guidelines about meeting goals. It is extremely important, then, for your organization to have a history of meeting and setting goals and a clear idea of what it takes to meet and measure your goals. We suggest building in goal setting and accountability at each board meeting as well as a deeper examination of past goals on an annual basis.
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