“No single entity has the resources or authority” to solve complex, social problems. Instead, effective solutions require a clear understanding of the problem by stakeholders “who must then change their own behaviour in order to create a solution.” To be more precise, “large-scale social change requires broad, cross-sectoral coordination.”
These statements were made by John Kania & Mark Kramer in their article entitled, “Collective Impact”, published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011. On at least three occasions recently, this article has been recommended as a “must read” for Children and Youth Services Network members and community partners.
Kania & Kramer state that although collaboration among organizations has been ongoing for decades, not much has been achieved in terms of long-term, systemic solutions to social problems. They also argue that, in the past, independent action or “Isolated Impact” has been the focus. The authors go on to describe a collaboration continuum that places “Collective Impact” at the highest level.
Five conditions of collective success distinguish “Collective Impact” from lower level collaborative relationships:
- Common Agenda – a shared vision for change, a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions.
- Shared Measurement Systems – agreement among partner organizations on the ways success will be measured and reported.
- Mutually Reinforcing Activities – each partner organization is encouraged to contribute by engaging in the specific types of action that it is good at.
- Continuous Communication – includes regular meetings among those in high level positions, constant flow of information between meetings, consistent attendance, a common vocabulary and the existence of trust between government agencies, non-profits and corporations.
- Backbone Support Organizations – highly structured processes that contribute to effective decision-making, and the existence of a “backbone organization” that can provide supporting infrastructure.
While many of these conditions were incorporated into the CYSN Terms of Reference during the 2012 restructure, it would be a worthwhile exercise for the Network to identify what it is not and should be doing from this list of conditions.
Areas such as communication, engagement, and measurement are all being pursued and strengthened as the CYSN membership works its way towards a higher level of cross-sectoral collaboration. Ultimately, this collective action will lead to greater success in achieving shared goals and objectives and having a significant impact upon our service system from the perspective of children, youth and families.
CLICK HERE to download a copy of John Kania & Mark Kramer’s article.