Sometimes we lose sight of a simple truth about systems: They are made up of people. Despite all of the frameworks and tools at our disposal and all of our learning as a field of practice, purely technical, rational approaches to systems change will not make much of a dent in shifting power or altering our most deeply held beliefs. If most collective impact efforts fall short of supporting people to change in fundamentally consciousness-altering ways, then, the system they are a part of will not significantly change either.

However, over the past two decades, the prevailing view among many funders, board members, and institutional leaders has been that only quantifiable and predetermined outcomes can create impact. But if the interrelated, devastating, and deepening crises and divisions over the past two years have taught us anything, it is that complex, adaptive problems defy tidy logic models and reductive technical solutions. It is time to invest our collective energy in more relational and emergent approaches to transforming systems.

Relationships are the essence and fabric of collective impact. What’s critical for those who facilitate collective impact efforts is to support relationship development in ways that build true empathy and compassion so that authentic connections happen, particularly between diverse participants. These deeper connections can form new avenues for innovation to address the social problem at hand.

Read the full article about KEYWORD by Katherine Milligan, Juanita Zerda and John Kania at Stanford Social Innovation Review