About us

In 2019, over countless cups of coffee and unnumerable grumbles, we couldn’t get away from the fact that a different approach was needed to overcome the entrenched problems facing the social sector.  Despite having secure jobs and steady bills, we decided to take the leap and do something about it – and so the Collective Impact Agency (CIC) was born.

Why 'Collective Impact'?

Just as we are stuck within the frame of a ‘heroic leader’ being necessary for an organisation to thrive, we are stuck thinking that a ‘heroic organisation’ is the answer to our entrenched social problems.

 

Our current social sectors are built on the unnamed assumption of ‘isolated impact’ – the best way to tackle social problems is to find and fund a solution embodied within a single organization, and hope that the most effective organisations will grow to extend their impact more widely.

 

Individual organisations strive to display their own potential to achieve impact, independent of the numerous other organisations or factors that may affect the complex issue. When funding is at play, organisations compete by emphasising how their individual activities produce the greatest effect.

 

Unfortunately, there is very little evidence to suggest that isolated efforts are the best way to solve social problems.  Even worse, complexity thinking says that if you are operating in a complex system (as we are), individual actors or organisations cannot produce outcomes – only the entire system can produce outcomes.

 

So we think there needs to be a fundamental shift away from thinking in terms of ‘isolated impact’ towards thinking about ‘collective impact.’ Fundamentally, it’s not about what I (or my organisation) can achieve. It’s about what we – the entire system – can achieve together. This is not the same as collaboration. The social sectors are littered with examples of partnerships, networks, and other joint activities.  But collective impact is different.

 

Collective impact requires a systemic approach to social issues. It requires not being content to respond to the surface-level issues but delving instead into root causes, forces, and drivers. It requires new thinking and new approaches to boundaries. Ultimately, it requires new social infrastructure, and new organisations and institutions. As long as charities have to report to their Trustee Boards and to the Charity Commission about ‘the difference they are making’, we remain a long way away from collective impact.

 

Collective impact is about building new types of relationships, prioritising learning, questioning conventions and assumptions, listening deeply to people from all different walks of life, experimenting and trying things that haven’t been tried before to see what happens, and iterating, iterating, iterating recognising that first attempts seldom succeed.

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