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5 essential elements to collective impact

by The NonProfit Times - August 26, 2013

What word best describes the number of social problems in the world: colossal; incalculable; or, incomprehensible?

Ways by which to solve those problems can be as difficult to find as the right word to describe them. One result is that there are many nonprofits looking to solve problems, often overlapping, even competing in their desire to do good.

During the AFP 50th International Conference on Fundraising, Mary A. Brumbach of the Dallas County Community College District discussed the concept of collective impact to tackle the vast number and complexity of social problems throughout the world. Large-scale social change requires broad-sector coordination, Brumbach said, but the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations. That can’t continue, so collective impact is important.

Brumbach said those essential elements of collective impact are:

  • Common agenda. A shared vision for change with common understanding of problems and joint approaches to resolutions.
  • Shared measurement. Common data elements and measures. This assures alignment and accountability.
  • Mutually reinforcing activities. Participant activities are different yet still coordinated through a mutual plan of action.
  • Continuous communication. Open, consistent communication to build trust, affirm mutual objectives and value common motivation.
  • Backbone support organization. A neutral, separate organization with staff and coalition management skills to manage the initiative and coordinate participating organizations.


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