Each year Maria donates to a few causes in her community. It’s hard, though, to keep track of what each agency is accomplishing. Celeste works as a program coordinator for one of the organizations in Maria’s neighborhood. She has trouble reaching potential donors like Maria, and explaining the great work her agency does.
The number and complexity of challenges facing our world can be overwhelming. When individual organizations attempt to tackle the most daunting problems, success stories are all too rare. Many innovative approaches have been tried; too few have worked. However, when organizations work together, under the right conditions, they can accomplish great things. One particularly effective means of collaboration is collective impact. Using this approach, a number of complex social challenges have been addressed with some remarkable results. Organizations using a collective impact approach:
- agree to a common goal (common agenda)
- track progress in the same way which allows for continuous improvement (shared measurement system)
- do what each does best while identifying new ways of working together (mutually-reinforcing activities)
- are regularly in touch with one another (continuous communication)
- have skilled and dedicated resources to support ongoing efforts (backbone support)
The Thriving Weld Dashboard is Weld County’s tool for shared measurement, one of the five key components of the collective impact process. The dashboard shows agency and county-wide progress.
There are six dials on the dashboard corresponding with six strategy maps, which are the plans for how the community achieves shared goals. Each strategy map has a backbone organization: North Colorado Health Alliance and the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment serve as the backbone organization for the Healthy Eating, Active Living, and Access to Care strategy maps; North Range Behavioral Health is the backbone for the Healthy Mind and Spirit strategy map; and United Way of Weld County is the backbone for the Education and Livelihood strategy maps. Backbone organizations provide support to other agencies in strategic direction and data collection, convene community conversations, and encourage progress.
Additionally, each agency is able to measure their own program success via a scorecard. Through it they can report any data that they wish. These programs are then linked to boxes on the strategy maps, detailing where they fit in the larger picture.
“John Kania and Mark Kramer define collective impact as, ‘the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem.’”Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011