Posted on

When Collective Impact Has an Impact: A Cross-Site Study of 25 Collective Impact Initiatives

When Collective Impact has an Impact
Downloads:
Executive Summary

Full Report

We at Spark Policy Institute and ORS Impact are excited to release the findings of a ground-breaking study in partnership with 25 collective impact sites in the US and Canada as part of the Collective Impact Research Study.


The study sought to shed light on a fundamental question:
To what extent and under what conditions does the collective impact approach contribute to systems and population changes?


The study findings can be a tool—for refining the collective impact approach, strengthening existing initiatives, supporting new initiatives, and evaluating collective impact more meaningfully.

Our study is intended to add to the body of knowledge related to collective impact, building a better understanding of when and where it has an impact. To solve the entrenched social problems that still plague too many people and communities, it is crucial to continue deepening the sector’s understanding of the results collective impact initiatives are achieving, the challenges they face, and the lessons they have learned.

Why this study?
In 2011, John Kania and Mark Kramer published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, laying out “collective impact” as an approach for solving social problems at scale. For some, the introduction of a defined framework for cross-sector collaboration provided a useful way to focus new and existing partnerships toward a common goal and, hopefully, greater impact.

It has not, however, been without controversy. Some critiques from the field include a sense that collective impact is just new packaging for old concepts (without fully crediting the work that preceded it); that it is inherently a top-down approach to community problems; that it is too simplistic for solving the complex social problems it seeks to address; and that it replicates unjust power dynamics. There is also criticism that the approach has not been assessed rigorously enough to warrant the number of resources being directed toward it.

In early 2017, the Collective Impact Forum, an initiative of FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions, hired ORS Impact and Spark Policy Institute to conduct a field-wide study of collective impact with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Houston Endowment, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The partnership of ORS Impact and Spark Policy Institute brought, across the two organizations, both knowledge, and experience with collective impact (Spark) and experience with other community change models (both), as well as a healthy skepticism and more arm’s length relationship to the approach (ORS).

We encourage you to share any of your insights about collective impact in the comments section below. Questions or comments about the study may also be sent to Terri Akey at ORS Impact or Lauren Gase at Spark Policy Institute.

Posted on

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Spark

“I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.”

― Malala Yousafzai


Dear partners and friends,

Spark Policy Institute was founded with a core belief that diverse perspectives are key to achieving meaningful change. Each of our conference rooms are named after leaders who made a difference because they spoke up and spoke out: Malala Yousafzai, Rodolpho “Corky” Gonzales, Hattie McDaniel, Maya Angelou, Dolores Huerta, and Sojourner Truth.

Our role as a bridge between nonprofits, communities, and funders brings with it a great responsibility to ensure all voices are heard in strategy design, implementation, research, evaluation, and interpretation. With the mark of the new year, we are committed to assessing how we are doing and where we need to improve. One of the ways we are doing that, is by renewing our focus on the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

Our team is taking on the hard work to make this vision reality – we have assembled not just a committee, but a working group, whose key charges are to develop goals for improving our work and our internal culture to more truly and demonstrably respect diversity, value equity, and foster inclusion.

We are committed to sharing our journey with specifics about the steps we are taking to reach our goals. You can read an introduction to our reinforced effort in our latest blog post Journey to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which includes a link to our DEI Commitment, and our 2018 DEI Plan. We will continue to update our website and newsletter with all of our efforts.

I am sincerely humbled by the skill and perseverance of my colleagues who continually seek to improve our work and challenge our assumptions. Together in this process we are capable of remarkable change.

As always, we at Spark welcome your questions, suggestions, or reactions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, or any of our staff as we move forward with this critical work.

Sincerely,
Kyle Brost
CEO
Spark Policy Institute

Posted on

Journey to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Alison McCarthy

Capitalizing on the new year’s encouragement of new habits and improvement, we are excited to announce a renewed focus to build and improve on Spark’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. This undertaking reflects our organizational and individual staff values. Much like New Year’s Resolutions that last, we know this type of work requires ongoing commitment through successes and challenges, a humble and realistic approach, and support from those around us.

Spark has had an inclusiveness statement since 2014 and has used participatory research and facilitation approaches since its inception. The general sentiments underlying DEI have been a part of this organization since the beginning. We believe it’s time to build on these sentiments to operationalize them – to “walk our talk,” so to speak. The people we work with and for deserve it. Additionally, many of us are drawn to the work we get to do at Spark because of our desire to make a positive difference in the lives of others. To do so effectively, we know we need to work to better understand all the layers that make up people’s rich cultures and world views. It is the first step towards building the authentic relationships we seek to cultivate.

Our DEI plan, which you can see here, includes both internal goals for staff awareness and skill building and external goals around the way we work with stakeholders, partners, and clients. We aim to infuse DEI into our language, behaviors, tools, approaches, products, processes, and policies. Part of the reason for this range of focus areas is the recognition that both an individual and systemic approach are needed for real change.

This affects all of us at Spark, and our DEI team (Daniela, Alison, Kristin, and Adell) will be guiding the implementation of this plan. As a team, we largely reflect Spark in this process: passionate about our values and dedicated to this work, though by no means experts.

We commit to keep you updated on our progress. This will include both the successes we have and the challenges we bump up against. We’ll share lessons learned and highlight partners who are taking on this work.

We sincerely hope we hear from you, too. Have a resource to share? Got some advice or feedback for us? Are you struggling with something in this area where we can either help or brainstorm together? Let us know! We don’t have the perfect formula here, and we don’t expect everything to go smoothly. But we know something is better than nothing, so we’re doing our best and taking some important steps. We hope you’ll join us on this journey!

Posted on

Collective Impact Study Update

By Jewlya Lynn, Founder and Chief Learning Officer, Spark Policy Institute; and Sarah Stachowiak, CEO, ORS Impact

Back in May, 2017 ORS Impact and Spark Policy Institute embarked on an ambitious and important study to explore how collective impact contributes to changes in systems and populations through its unique approach to addressing social issues. We are pleased to update the field on our study progress as we near the end of our data collection.

Study Selection Process

To seek out a representative group of sites that would allow us to dig into how collective impact leads to systems and population changes, we invited the field to nominate sites that were good examples of how the collective impact model is contributing to changes in systems and outcomes.

We screened over 150 sites to find examples of mature initiatives (at least three years old), in the US and Canada, with evidence of strongly implementing all of the five conditions of collective impact, changing a number of systems, and moving the needle on outcomes. Of the 39 sites that met our initial screening criteria, 25 initiatives across a wide range of topics and geographies consented to participate in our inquiry. Our research steering team helped us vet the final set of sites and identify any potential challenges.

Methods

To develop a broad understanding of how collective impact works across many different settings, we interviewed two key people in each of the 25 sites who had a deep knowledge of the initiative– often backbone leaders or steering team members. In addition, we reviewed many documents that described activities, goals, and progress. Through the interviews and documents, we sought to understand how collective impact shows up in different initiatives and how the collective impact conditions might be linked to important changes in systems and outcomes.

Drilling Down to Equity and Impact

Next, we selected two sets of sites to dive deeper into our primary research question of “what is the contribution of collective impact to population and systems changes?” and to explore more explicitly how equity intersects with the CI model– a priority identified by our steering team as an opportunity to raise up a significant principle that is important to the field.

To address our primary research question about the contribution of CI, we selected eight “contribution” sites  from our original pool of 25. Our goal in selection was NOT to identify the “best” CI sites, but rather to identify a set of initiatives that allowed the best chance of examining causal linkages among how collective impact is implemented and the changes that occur in people, organizations, systems, and ultimate impact. Therefore, we selected eight sites that had the strongest evidence that all five collective impact conditions were present and that multiple social and systems changes could  clearly be linked to population changes achieved.

Within our contribution sites, we collected additional data using structured group dialogues to help us understand how collective impact is implemented and what challenges the initiatives faced in implementation. In addition, we facilitated group process tracing sessions where a group of stakeholders pressure tested theories of change that the systems changes and population changes they were experiencing could be attributed to their collective impact efforts and not to external events or context.

To address growing interest and urgency around infusing equity into collective impact work, we also identified three sites to allow us to understand more deeply the issues related to meaningful and authentic inclusion of beneficiary communities in CI planning, implementation and leadership; what types of equity focused strategies are being implemented; what factors are related to “readiness” to engage in equity work; and how initiatives are achieving equity-focused systems changes and outcomes. ARISE– an initiative focused on the needs of indigenous students in Anchorage, Promesa Boyle Heights– a community-driven initiative in Los Angeles, and RGV Focus– a regional initiative focused on low-income Hispanic children and families in the Rio Grande valley– all provide unique opportunities to learn how CI can actively engage the families and communities they intend to benefit and how having an equity focus interacts with the CI model.

Coming up in future posts, we’ll share our collective impact and equity rubrics that we are using to understand how the model is being implemented, and blogs on systems changes and process tracing as a methodology. As we wrap up our analysis and distill findings, we’ll also provide a glimpse into our initial results and share lessons with the field from what we are learning.

Posted on

Collective Impact Study Sites

Site/Initiative Name Location Issue Area Contribution Site Equity Site
Alignment Nashville Nashville, TN Education – Multi-Issue X
ARISE Anchorage, AK Education for Indigenous Students X
Aspen Community Foundation Cradle to Career Aspen, Basalt CO Cradle to Career – Education
Coalition for New Britain’s Youth New Britain, CT Cradle to Career – Education, Early Learning
Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Colorado Substance Abuse X
Communities that Care: Franklin County and the North Quabbin Franklin County, MA Education – Reducing Teen Social Risk Factors X
Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance Bridgeport, CT Juvenile Justice X
Elizabeth River Portsmouth VA Environmental X
Green Umbrella Greater Cincinnati, OH Area Food Systems; Environmental Sustainability
Home for Good Los Angeles, CA Homelessness X
K-Connect Kent, MI Cradle to Career – Education
Living SJ Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada Poverty Reduction
Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless Omaha, NE Homelessness
Milwaukee Teen Pregnancy Initiative Milwaukee, WI Teen Pregnancy X
Mission: Graduate Central New Mexico Cradle to Career – Education
Open Doors of Fairfield County Fairfield County, CT Homelessness
Ottawa Child and Youth Initiative: Growing Up Great Ottawa, Canada Cradle to Career – Education, Early Learning
Project U Turn Philadelphia, PA Opportunity Youth
Promesa Boyle Heights Los Angeles, CA Cradle to Career – Education X
RGV Focus Rio Grande Valley, TX Cradle to Career – Education X
San Diego Childhood Obesity Initiative: Community Health Improvement Partners San Diego, CA Health – Childhood Obesity X
Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada Poverty Reduction
Shaping our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Southeast Kentucky Economic Development
South Platte Urban Waters Partnership Golden, CO Environmental
Vermont Farm to Plate Vermont Food Systems