Collective Impact

Approach that attempts to move the needle on social problems by shifting from isolated to collective social impact.
Large-scale social change requires working together across silos and sectors. Collective impact (CI) is an approach that attempts to move the needle on social problems by shifting from isolated to collective social impact. It does this through a group of committed people, who are important actors from different sectors working on a common agenda towards a specific social problem (a common agenda is one of the main differentiators between collective impact and a social innovation lab). Collaboration is not new – what makes collective impact unique is the centralized infrastructure, dedicated staff and structured process that leads to moving the needle on a specific social issue.

Conditions of Success:

  1. 1.
    Common Agenda: Collective Impact requires all participants to have a shared vision for change, which requires a common understanding of what the problem is, and an approach to solving it collectively. This means that the different actors must come to agreement on shared definitions, including defining the problem. A lab, conversely, may have a shared challenge question but many differing opinions of the problem and what to do about it.
  2. 2.
    Shared Measurement Systems: Developing a shared measurement plan is a key component of CI, in which participants identify common metrics for tracking progress. That is, it’s hard to have a common agenda without having agreement on the process to get there.
  3. 3.
    Mutually Reinforcing Activities: Another condition of CI is that each actor works on a particular set of activities in a way that supports and is coordinated with the actions of others. Each actor’s efforts fit into the overarching plan, and in that way, the interdependent components are tackled by different actors.
  4. 4.
    Continuous Communication: CI requires open and ongoing communication between the different actors to build trust and mutual respect and understanding. This trust is crucial upon which to build mutual objectives and motivation.
  5. 5.
    Backbone Support Organization: CI also requires a backbone organization with staff who have a specific skillset and who carry the initiative forward (much like a lab team). The supporting infrastructure is a critical component to the success of the initiative.

Key Resources

Collective Impact Forum. Resources.
Innoweave. Collective Impact Module.
Tamarack Institute. Collective Impact.