• Corinna West

    If a project in my community is refusing to engage the community, and “experts” are hogging all the resources and doing all the planning, what can I do as a community member to ask for real and lasting change?

    I have blogged about these projects, repeatedly asked for inclusion, pointed out their inability to make lasting change without community engagement. And all they do is beat me up, alienate my community further, block my agency from getting funded, and keep saying that our community is engaged when it’s not. They have been quite aggressive about excluding me simply for asking for engagement.

    Everyone is telling me to just avoid these projects, build my own organization, work with funders who don’t require fake collaborations, and to bootstrap our organization if we can’t find funders that support real grassroots efforts. How do you do this? HOW do you just watch repeatedly all the money go to low impact projects to “help” my community without even asking us when our community has very real and very painful needs not even being addressed?

  • Sheri Brady

    Thanks for your thoughtful piece on the relationship between collective impact and systems change, and congratulations on the accomplishments in your work.

    We agree that the original article Collective Impact, which referenced Strive and several other examples from the field, provided a useful framework for people thinking about cross-sector collaboration, but did not sufficiently emphasize many of the points you make in your piece.

    Over the past five years the Collective Impact Forum (collectiveimpactforum.org/about-us)– an initiative of the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions and FSG, with several field-wide partners – has been working with the field to evolve how collective impact can serve as one way to bring people together in pursuit of systems change, with the goal of achieving population-level change.

    For people engaged in collaboratives who are seeking additional resources on collective impact and systems change, we wanted to share a few items that have come out since initial collective impact article in 2011:

    – The Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact (2014) outlines the relationship between the collective impact framework for collaboration, systems change, and population change. (http://www.collectiveimpactforum.org/resources/guide-evaluating-collective-impact)

    – The blog post “What Makes Collective Impact a Powerful Tool for Systems Change” (2014) describes how Living Cities has used the collective impact approach as a tool in its work to improve systems for low-income populations. (https://www.livingcities.org/blog/734-what-makes-collective-impact-a-powerful-tool-for-systems-change)

    – Collective Impact Principles of Practice (2016) outlines a set of principles for how collective impact initiatives can contribute to systems change and population level outcomes. In particular, we’d highlight #1 “Design and implement the initiative with a priority placed on equity;” #2 “Include community members in the collaborative;” and #6 “Focus on program and system strategies,” where it discusses different system change levers that collective impact collaboratives can pursue including policy change, changing the practices and behaviors of professionals and beneficiaries, and shifting social and cultural norms. (http://www.collectiveimpactforum.org/blogs/1301/collective-impact-principles-practice-putting-collective-impact-action)

    – The article “Collective Impact Without Borders” (2017) highlights some lessons on funder and grantee collaborations that working to improve systems outside the United States, including examples from Israel, Mexico, Brazil, and Cambodia. (https://ssir.org/articles/entry/collective_impact_without_borders)

    – The blog post “Systems Change Strategies: From Theory to Practice” (2017) provides examples of how a collective impact initiative in Douglas County, Nebraska focused on systems change. Their lessons (below) align well with those in the NPQ article, and can provide an additional example for readers: Lesson 1: Get the entire “system” in the room to problem solve together; Lesson 2: Ground conversations in data, but then add experience and perception to understand one another’s realities and build authentic relationships; and Lesson 3: Build on a foundation of trust and pre-determined rules of interaction to allow new systems-changing strategies to emerge that aim to change attitudes, behaviors, and norms of those that make up the system. The full post can be read at: http://www.collectiveimpactforum.org/blogs/1816/systems-change-strategies-theory-practice

    On April 3-5, the 2018 Collective Impact Convening will offer several sessions exploring how collective impact initiatives can use their platforms for pursing systems change, including the closing plenary on Thursday, April 5, entitled “Achieving Systems Change in Collective Impact.” This session will be live-streamed for anyone to view. (Registration is still open for anyone who would like to join the conversation in person.)

    Finally, we agree with the call for studying collective impact. ORS Impact and the Spark Policy Institute will be publishing a study in the coming weeks that explores how collective impact can contribute to systems and population changes. You can read more about the soon-to-be-published paper here: http://sparkpolicy.com/collective-impact-study-update/

    -Sheri Brady, Associate Director, Strategic Partnerships, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions, and Jennifer Juster, Executive Director, Collective Impact Forum