Centering Equity in Collective Impact

10 years after the article that coined “collective impact” and disseminated the framework around the world, the team at the Collective Impact Forum (and the original authors) were invited to follow up with our biggest lesson about this work. We all agreed that the most important thing we could emphasize was about the importance of centering equity.

We offer a new definition of collective impact: a network of community members, organizations, and institutions that advance equity by learning together, aligning, and integrating their actions to achieve population and systems-level change. Equity is in the center of this definition because one cannot move population or systems change without redressing  disparities in opportunities, outcomes, and representation.

We recommend five practices for centering equity with practical steps and stories to illustrate how it works:

  1. Ground the work in data and context, and target solutions.
  2. Focus on systems change, in addition to programs and services.
  3. Shift power within the collective.
  4. Listen to and act with community.
  5. Build equity leadership and accountability.

Thank you to my amazing co-authors: John Kania, Junious WilliamsSheri Brady, Mark Kramer & Jennifer Splansky Juster

Read more >

10 Dangers to Collective Impact

After visiting more than 200 collective impact initiatives over the past decade, I’ve found patterns about what goes wrong and also lessons for how to do it right. The essay reviews the 10 “worst practices” I’ve seen and shares 3 lessons for doing it well.

Read more >

Public Private Partnerships in Emergency Response: A Case Study of Milwaukee’s Civic Response Team

The Covid-19 pandemic was an all-hands-on-deck moment. As communities were jolted into emergency response on many fronts – health, jobs, housing, education, child care, food, and mental health – collaboration and coordination became essential.

In this new case study, we learn more about Milwaukee’s Civic Response Team and how it united local governments, philanthropy, and nonprofits to collectively manage response and recovery. In just weeks, they housed hundreds of people, delivered tens of thousands of meals, built and promoted a COVID-19 testing system, distributed hundreds of thousands of masks, provided families with technology to connect to school, rescued child care providers, and soothed anxieties and grief.

This new paper studies how the public-private partnerships within the Civic Response worked during their first year, and what we can learn from them to support better partnership and emergency response in the future.

Read more >

Collective Impact in Emergency Response: A Case Study of Milwaukee’s COVID-19 Civic Response Team

Milwaukee’s COVID-19 response has been a remarkable mobilization of resources and organizations to address needs for shelter, food, testing, internet connection, and more. Necessity has forced such collective efforts in many cities, but Milwaukee’s may be unique in the civic architecture that has been built and that may be sustained beyond the crisis.

The experience of Milwaukee’s Civic Response provides a window into a city’s comprehensive response to the COVID-19 crisis that also offers six lessons for how collective impacts can be most effective in both meeting emergency needs and pursuing systems changes.

Read more >

Funding the Long Game in Collective Impact

One of the challenges many collective impact efforts face is having the financial support over a long enough period to make real progress on their stated results.

The Advancing Healthier Wisconsin Endowment at the Medical College of Wisconsin has developed a promising model that made substantial eight-year-long investments in ten collective impact efforts coupled with extensive technical and capacity-building support. At a time when many backbones are still seeking one to three-year grants to move population level results that will take much longer, the AHW story is a promising approach to philanthropic support and partnership.

This paper is a case study on the experience and lessons of this promising grant program, and a call for more funders to consider longer, larger, more engaged partnerships with collective impact backbones.

You can also view a recorded webinar here with Christina Ellis and Tim Meister from the Endowment along with other materials on the partnership.

Read more >

Exploring Historical Trauma in Native American Communities

Many of us who work in the social sector do not know enough about Native populations, history, and historical trauma, and can learn from their efforts to use culture as solution to social problems and force for community building. This essay shares some lessons from my time working with and recently visiting the Lac du Flambeau in Northern Wisconsin.

Read more >

Top-down, Meet Bottom Up (Elite Power, New Power, and Sharing Power)

Social change often requires top-down and bottom-up to work together. To do this, we need to encourage and develop leadership in communities, and encourage those with power and privilege to share and give up power – to practice equity. This essay reviews two recent books, Anand Giridharadas’s Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World and Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans’s New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World and How to Make It Work for You, and offers tips for how leaders can be more equitable in their work for community and social change.

Read more >

Making Meetings Work: Designing to energize not bore

One of the things I’ve worked with several collective impact efforts to improve is meetings. If you are trying to stimulate inclusion, collaboration, action, and accountability, design meetings to achieve that. Doing so can help meetings accelerate results rather than linger in boredom.

This essay shares 5 lessons with links to appendices with sample tools:

  1. Clarity about roles and expectations of members;
  2. Attention to room design, composition of the group, and seating;
  3. More effective facilitation;
  4. More effective meeting design: (a) clear purpose and results for each meeting; (b) curate what participants need to know, not what staff/chairs want participants to know; (c) engage the full brain power – perspectives, expertise, experience – of the room; (d) Manage time effectively and efficiently; and (e) ensure commitments are fulfilled and people are held and hold each other accountable;
  5. A clear process to prepare, debrief, evaluate, and follow up on each meeting.
Read more >

Trump’s Immigration Ignorance

Donald Trump’s immigration agenda rejects both our American history and values. In this essay, I share America’s immigration history and the nuances of our current situation to demonstrate how President Trump’s divisive immigration rhetoric and actions will make us less safe and less American. The essay borrows heavily from Tyler Anbinder’s amazing and engrossing book, City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York.

Read more >

Our Hope: The Obama Generation

I am grateful my children grew up during the Presidency of Barack Obama. He taught our younger generations to dream big, to get involved, and to practice the leadership values he practiced every day. In this essay, I lay out those values and why I’m optimistic our young people will embrace them, reject the leadership style of President-elect Trump, and become the leaders who will help us bend the arc of history back toward justice.

Read more >

Travel in a Changing Cuba

Entering a Communist totalitarian state, I expected more militaristic security personnel at the airport. Instead, we were warmly welcomed to Cuba by the female immigration and security agents wearing uniforms that included shorts and patterned fishnet stockings. It was the first of many surprises, mostly pleasant surprises, we experienced in Cuba. We hope the imminent growth of American trade and tourism doesn’t turn Cuba into another homogenous tourist zone, and benefits the Cuban people more than the tourists.This essay is a companion to my blog of tips and reviews from our April 2016 visit.


Read more >

Community Engagement Matters (Now More Than Ever)

Data-driven and evidence-based practices present new opportunities for public and social sector leaders to increase impact while reducing inefficiency. But in adopting such approaches, leaders must avoid the temptation to act in a top-down manner. Instead, they should design and implement programs in ways that engage community members directly in the work of social change. (currently behind subscription paywall)

Read more >