In winter 2011, the consulting group FSG wrote an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) introducing the idea of collective impact. Citing the work of Cincinnati, Ohio’s StrivePartnership as a prime example, the article argued that “large-scale social change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations.” Collective impact if successful can achieve real impact philanthropy.
FSG was able to popularize the concept of collective impact—which is, arguably, a good thing: we do, of course, want people working together. But we believe that the systems-change approach, while more complicated and long-term in nature, will produce more reliable improvements in outcomes, and do so in a sustainable way.
In order to shed light on what could be the next generation of collective work (or, as we would say, systems-change work), and on what activities communities should pursue as they work toward meaningful and sustainable social change, below we describe two successfully developed high-impact community initiatives: the Cincinnati Preschool Promise (CPP) and the Rashi-Tauber Initiative (RTI).
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Three common principles have emerged from our work in these two very different communities, all of which are in line with this systems-change approach to collective work. First, new centers of power must emerge, and they must emerge from those most adversely affected by our current systems and policies. Second, leaders must be committed to the work for the long haul, as real change often takes many years to achieve. And third, in true collective-work form, a new development approach—not necessarily new programs—is vital. This article focuses primarily on the first insight—the one that has received the least attention—although we do tackle the other two, as they are critically important as well.
We know that new centers of power must emerge, and our efforts must help facilitate this work to empower those most adversely affected by our current systems and policies. We are optimistic about the potential of rigorous collective work to make change even in the most difficult of situations, but we are also sure that collective impact must take a from-the-ground-up approach for material and lasting social change to occur.
Read the full article about impact philanthropy by Greg Landsman and Erez Riomi at Nonprofit Quarterly.
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