After a year of planning, we are proud to announce an expansion of The Integration Initiative and share three things we learned along the way.

We were excited to announce the expansion of The Integration Initiative this week. After a year of planning, collective impact initiatives in four cities–Albuquerque, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle/King County–will join the existing members of The Integration Initiative (TII) cohort to further their work changing systems to improve the lives of low-income people.

Throughout this planning year, our partners in these initiatives shared a lot about what they are learning, and about what it takes to successfully design and lead collective impact initiatives. I wanted to add my own thoughts on what we learned in the past year about what it takes for intermediaries and foundations to support collective impact initiatives to achieve their shared result.

Data Data Data!

Data was a big focus over the last year of work in TII (and it will continue to be a focus during implementation). We spent a lot of time with our TII partners talking about how to access data related to their work and the best ways to use it. And these conversations weren’t just about numbers–a lot of the challenges were around developing a feedback culture within the cross-sector partnership. Creating a feedback culture can help people examine deeply held assumptions about their work and commit to changing behavior.

An important part of developing a feedback culture is to set up a data system to fuel feedback. We saw that without an agreed upon shared result and a set of outcomes that track toward that shared result, collective impact initiatives quickly become lost. We found that the Results Based Accountability framework was helpful for most of our partners to set up these data infrastructure systems.

It’s About the Community

A big challenge we saw across our entire collective impact portfolio, not just TII, was the issue of authentically integrating community input into collective impact initiatives. Many people have criticized the collective impact model as being too “top down” and not informed by the realities of community needs.

Living Cities advocates for robust community engagement in all of our partnerships, but it was in this area that our site partners pushed us a lot on how we think about working with communities in collective impact. By speaking with the members of TII and other partners, we were able to put together an e-course on this topic designed to guide practicioners to explore the issue further. In this past planning year with TII, we saw innovative thinking on community engagement specifically in Seattle/King County and Albuquerque.

Where Your Initiative Lives Matters

One big change from the first three years of TII to the second round of TII was a shift from relying on philanthropy as the driver of collective impact to working with public sector leaders. Whereas the first cohort of TII was almost completely comprised of nonprofit-led initiatives, all of the four new members of TII are led or co-led by the public sector. This has caused us to explore different data challenges as well as different ways we need to support public sector leaders. We have only begun to explore how the sectoral home of a collective impact initiative alters the way it works, and we will be sure to share our lessons with you as we learn them.

In addition to exploring more about cross-sector engagement, in the next year we hope to expand our understanding of how to successfully build data systems to support collective impact initiatives. We will also continue to work with our TII partners on how to apply a racial equity lens to collective impact.