After seven years visiting and consulting with more than 100 collective impact efforts around the world, I’ve drawn one main conclusion: Collective impact is really, really hard. On one hand, the approach makes common sense—of course it takes a variety of leaders and groups working together to address complex social challenges that no one person or entity can solve on their own. On the other hand, it runs contrary to traditional organization-centric approaches leaders have learned and been incented to follow for decades.

Thousands of collective impact efforts have sprung up over the past decade, but many have struggled to achieve intended outcomes, and I have found some common barriers prevent success. On the flip side, my work under the hood of dozens of initiatives has also illuminated three particular lessons learned that can help groups avoid these dangers.

  1.  Strategy Drift
  2. Culture Drift
  3. Treating Workgroups Like Committees
  4. Lack of Transparency
  5. Having the Wrong People at the Table
  6. Lack of Accountability
  7. Funder and Political Hijacking
  8. Managing a Network Like an Organization
  9. Insufficient Time Frames
  10. Lack of Adaptive Leadership

Read the full article about collective impact work by Paul Schmitz at Stanford Social Innovation Review.