Collective Impact

Collective impact is on the rise, and with good reason. Cicero Social Impact provides the support communities need to engage stakeholders, develop a shared strategy, and coordination implementation across collective impact initiatives.

Funders, government agencies, communities, and service providers increasingly recognize the intertwined nature of the problems many societies face such as poverty, education, health, early education, youth development, school-to-work transitions, homelessness, and recidivism. And while it makes sense to address overlapping challenges with integrated solutions, coordinating disparate agencies, services, and populations is a terribly difficult endeavor.

There is a growing movement to approach these situations through the lens of collective impact, outlined by FSG and others. Making this happen, however, typically requires more support than can be gleaned from a few good articles. Our team has deep experience with a range of collective impact initiatives, ranging from a handful of organizations working in the same space to entire cities addressing chronic challenges. Though we approach each case in a customized way, we often provide support in one or more of three key phases:

1. Stakeholder Engagement

It usually takes more than a few visionaries to engage a community, even when significant funding is on the table. Understanding and, as necessary, adapting to the landscape before launch inevitably increases the long-term success of collective impact initiatives. We work with those promoting collective impact to understand which stakeholders will sign up immediately, who will resist, and who’s in between. In doing so, we also work to identify priority issues or areas of alignment among groups as well as the incentives or concerns that will influence engagement.

2. Collective Strategy, Prioritization, and Alignment

Once stakeholders engage, it’s crucial that everyone involved agrees on three strategic questions:

  • What do we want to accomplish?
  • How are we going to do it?
  • And who is going to do what?

Of course, a dozen disparate voices typically result in a dozen or more answers to these questions.

Our team includes expert facilitators to help sort through these issues by combining robust discussions, internal and external data, and clear decision-making criteria and processes. The benefits of such a collaborative, inclusive process aren’t just clarity and alignment within the community. Participants also develop strong relationships and trust through shared experiences, forging the collective team that will be essential for success in execution.

3. Ongoing Management and Coordination

Once the collective strategy is in place, execution requires clear responsibilities for each participant, intentional decision-making and coordination processes, and shared measurement data to bring objectivity to what can be a highly political endeavor. Developing such systems and processes is essential but complex, as the ‘backbone’ organization must provide system-wide services and solutions that most individual organizations don’t already have themselves. Our implementation experts provide management, operational and technical support early on and, as desired, throughout the process to ensure grand visions become high-impact realities.

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