By now readers of my blog know that I am all about collective impact. It is a framework that I believe has real merit, under the right circumstances and with the right outcome in mind. But gosh, it is hard work and even though we have alot of experience in collaboration, we do not have the collective impact muscle fully developed yet.
The collective impact framework, in some ways, seduces us into diving deep into the process of change. It is all about bringing diverse voices to the table, focusing on a common agenda, engaging in shared measurement, aligning activities, communicating and building a backbone. All good stuff and really important in collective impact.
The framework is a little less prescriptive in describing how to get to the community change outcome. Some groups can work hard at getting to a common agenda without ever defining their strategic intent or their key and measurable outcome.
This is the crux of the work. What is the change that the collective impact effort is envisioning. Who will be impacted, by how much and in what time period. It suggests that collective impact efforts have to be deeply connected to the data about the current context or experience of individuals impacted by the issue, problem or opportunity and that they use this data to identify how much needle moving they hope to achieve.
But this is tough work. Who has the data? Are they willing to share? What is the data telling us? How do we supplement the data with the real time experiences that individuals are facing navigating this issue in our community? What leverage do we have to actually impact this issue in a real and measurable way? What change do we want to see, by how much and in what time frame for our community? Tough questions to be sure - especially when the data is not necessarily available at the level that we need - neighbourhood, city, county, etc.
And so, we focus on the process. How do we improve our collaborative effort? How do we communicate the issue in a more compelling way? How do we build engagement around collective impact? All important of course, but not game changing or community impact focused.
Let's agree to push past the easy and push toward the critical community change outcomes. Let's agree to keep this as our focus, even when the issue trends in a negative way. Let's hold ourselves accountable to articulate and drive toward community change and impact. That is the true work of collective impact.