Why 'collective impact'?
No single organisation can end homelessness, or poverty, or any of the complex social problems we care about. But the way things are currently structured assumes that they can.
Collective impact challenges this assumption. It says the only way to create meaningful social change is to bring together a range of actors - community members, organisations, and institutions - in a structured way. One organisation operating on its own cannot end homelessness. But a range of people and organisations working together and integrating their activities might be able to.
Collective impact is a challenge and an alternative to traditional impact models and market-based assumptions.
We need to get past the model of individual organisations trying to ‘prove the difference they have made’. We know this is often tied to attempts to attract more funding. Unfortunately, there is very little evidence to suggest that isolated efforts are the best way to solve social problems.
We need instead to embrace a networked approach. We need to try collectively to create meaningful social change without worrying about who can take the credit for it. We need to prioritise learning together, advancing equity, and finding new experimental activities we can try together.
It’s not about what my organisation can achieve. It’s about what we – the entire system – can achieve together.
We also need to challenge, dismantle, and replace the structures that underpin market-based impact models. We need to create new organisations, new types of institutions, new funding models, and new means of civic participation. We are trying hard to be one of these ‘new organisations’ in the way we think about work and structure relationships.
At its heart, 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.