John Kania’s pioneering article on Collective Impact

The most influential article on collective impact was published online in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011 by John Kania and a colleague from the social-sector consulting firm FSG. This article laid out the case for collective impact compared to “isolated” impact – the all-too-common scenario in which individual organizations or programs are expected to single-handedly move the needle on large, complex problems like poverty and compete for funding with other organizations doing the same work rather than working in a tightly aligned, collaborative way. Kania also points that collective impact is not simply collaboration:

“Collaboration is nothing new. The social sector is filled with examples of partnerships, networks, and other types of joint efforts. But collective impact initiatives are distinctly different. Unlike most collaborations, collective impact initiatives involve a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, and a structured process that leads to a common agenda, shared measurement, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing activities among all participants.”

It is the five conditions of collective impact that hold the promise of truly effective outcomes for individuals and communities. A dedicated backbone organization facilitates a structured process of developing a common agenda that unites the work of numerous stakeholders around a set of shared measurements that define the initiative’s desired outcomes. These outcomes are what drive the mutually reinforcing activities that the initiative’s stakeholders implement, and the backbone facilitates continuous communication among all partners to ensure that the work is aligned, information is shared, and resources are leveraged. Kania argues that

“…large-scale change comes from better cross-sector coordination rather than from the isolated intervention of individual organizations…substantially greater progress could be made in alleviating many of our most serious and complex social problems if nonprofits, governments, businesses, and the public were brought together around a common agenda to create collective impact.”

To understand the collective impact model that Prosper Waco has adopted, click here to access Kania’s article online and browse the archive of related articles on the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Or, you can click below to download the article in PDF format.

Collective Impact – SSIR article – Kania