The Collective Impact #ToolBox is a series of blogs featuring simple, practical tools that members of cross-sector partnerships can use to support their day to day work.
As the field and theory of collective impact has evolved, it has been perceived by many as either too esoteric and theoretical, or just a new name for what many felt they were already doing, or a strange mix of both! Collective Impact is often weighed down by jargon and lack of practical details about what high level concepts really mean. At Living Cities we were guilty of the same kind of “over generalizing” for a long time. So, over the last two years we have spent a great deal of time clarifying and attempting to codify what we believe the elements of collective impact entail in application.
Simply put, we attempted to answer the question, “if you are doing this work well, what does it actually look like?”
Part of that process led us to articulate what we have learned about the elements that must be incorporated into the effective application of collective impact principles. In addition to the foundational elements of collective impact (which Tynesia Boyea-Robinson has previously laid out), we also looked at two other elements to catalyze change, which we believe must also be present: public sector innovation, and capital innovation.
Additionally, we made an effort to apply a more transparent and disciplined process to supporting our Integration Initiative site partners in cities applying these three elements. As part of that effort, we developed a dashboard as a tool to capture progress against these elements and prioritize resources to move sites toward their shared result. We update these dashboards as a team every quarter and reflect on what is working, what isn’t and why. We then rate the status of each element using a simple red, yellow, green code for where the site partner is in the work, and trending up or down areas to indicate trajectory of progress.
An important nuance to keep in mind is that this dashboard tracks Living Cities outcomes, and not the outcomes our site partners have defined locally to measure progress towards their shared result (such as number of students graduating from high school or residents in living wage jobs). This dashboard helps us determine how well site partners are implementing the elements of collective impact and how we can provide better support to our partners. We believe if the site partners can successfully implement these elements, they will be able to achieve their shared result as defined in their local context.
Like most things at Living Cities, this is a work in progress that we continue to refine as we learn more about what it takes to get dramatically better results for low-income people faster. Let us know what you think about this tool. What is missing? What would make it more useful? What isn’t quite right?