What is Collective Impact?
Structure: Collective impact is an innovative and structured approach to systems change. The process brings together a wide variety of stakeholders who use data to identify root causes of a problem. Once the problem’s complexity is understood, the group implements solutions and monitors outcomes by using shared measures. This approach consists of five characteristics which include:
Cross-Sector Collaboration: Collective impact differs from more conventional change methods in several ways. For instance, organizations are typically evaluated on their isolated work. The Stanford Social Innovation Review calls this "isolated impact." It's become clear that no one single organization will be able to solve highly complex social problems. Instead, complex problems require cross-sector collaborations which address the interplay between government agencies, private for profit businesses, non-profits, educational institutions, and, most significantly, people who are directly impacted by the social issues being addressed. Early adopters report that the success of collective impact initiatives requires a shift in how programs are designed and implemented, how funders operate, and how policies are developed.
Theory of Change (TOC): Another difference in the collective impact approach is the use of the TOC method used for planning, participating, and evaluating long-term goals while also outlining causal links (e.g., showing each outcome in logical relationship to all the others) and then mapping backwards to identify necessary preconditions for change.
TOC differs from the more commonly used logic model. TOC links outcomes and activities to explain how and why the desired change is expected, while a logic model illustrates program components and helps stakeholders clearly identify outcomes, inputs and activities. TOC is best used when starting with a goal before deciding what programmatic approaches are needed versus a logic model which typically starts with a program. Lastly, TOC requires justifications at each step demonstrating why activities are expected to produce outcomes, while logic models require the existence of program components and outcomes which are then examined as in or out of sync with inputs and activities.
Backbone Organization: Collective impact literature outlines that in order to maintain a vital collective impact change process, there must be “a separate organization dedicated to coordinating the various dimensions and collaborators involved in the initiative.” OCMH enthusiastically assumes this role.