You Review: Lanah Hake reviews Collective Impact

Collective Impact
By John Kania & Mark Kramer
published in Stanford Social Innovation Review
Winter 2011

Ah, working together… Who knew it was such a challenge in the real world? Who knew that it is considered somewhat of a novelty to find a real life example where various entities are actually working together to solve social issues? Well, search no longer my friends, it is here. After over a decade working on social change issues, this article Collective Impact, and my introduction to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, was a beacon of light at the precise  moment I was looking to the sky for one.

The article, Collective Impact, is about what might be termed a movement, approach or innovation in how we, as a community and society address complex social issues (i.e. education, poverty, environment, etc..). On its surface one might roll their semi-jaded eyes and say, yet again we hear about needing to break out of silos and work together versus against each other? Fortunately, this short and sweet article highlights not only the concept, but also the core criteria for implementation and a wonderful (almost local) model of the Strive Network in Cincinnati.

The timing of this article was uncanny as it landed on my lap at the exact time I was beginning to lay out the concrete next steps for the United Way of Allen County’s Learn United community volunteer mobilization initiative to help support children’s success in school. Not only did this article synthesize the philosophical roots of this paradigm but it provided a great scaffolding within which to frame the local effort. It allowed me to move beyond abstraction and share a clear definition and concrete example of what can, and has been done when individuals, agencies and communities move out of the individualistic thinking (in funding, branding, mobilization and so forth) and towards a synergistic, collective approach to work smarter with limited resources to maximize the effort of all parties with the shared core vision – the collective impact.

Although we are just at the tip of the iceberg with the Learn United Collective Impact Dialogue series (building on the ongoing Learn United work to expand collaboration with a range of community partners with shared core vision to mobilize volunteers to help children succeed in school and life), it is an extremely exciting paradigm and model to see coming to fruition, even in its infancy.  When bringing a range of community partners together our tendency is to immediately see our differences. With this article in hand, along with a range of other ‘tools’ that highlighted the potential if we joined forces (i.e. mobilizing 5000 volunteers vs. 500 to served 20,000 children vs. 5000), well, it was powerful. In the coming months, we’ll be leading a small ‘team’ of local representatives to meet with the subject of the article, Strive, to learn even more about putting this model into practice locally which is very exciting!

In the midst of the jungle of social issues where we often are just fighting for our lives day to day, this article on Collective Impact is one that I would rate as ‘essential’ for anyone seeking to be at the forefront in the evolution (er, revolution?)  of how we see and address social issues. Whether you are leading or joining social impact/change initiatives, the article is worth a read, and more importantly, the concept of collaborative, collective engagement and problem solving is worth attention if we are to truly get to be the change we seek.

– Lanah Hake

Lanah Hake is Director of Education Initiatives with the United Way of Allen County

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