An Alternative Model of Change: The Future Can Be Different and Better

Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work

In early 2011, John Kania and Mark Kramer published an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled “Collective Impact”. This article received rave reviews. As the concept of collective impact percolated in the minds of readers, the authors were faced with an outpouring of responses and interest. In short, people liked this approach to collaboration and its ability to significantly address widespread social problems. When it came to social progress, collective impact seemed to emerge as the answer.

Kania and Kramer recently collaborated with Fay Hanleybrown to publish a follow-up article: Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work. The goal of this article is to provide more depth and guidance on how to put the collective impact principles into practice and emphasizes the increased relevance of the concept given the economic and social realities of today. The article builds on the point that collective impact is not just an elegant name for collaboration; rather, it is “…a fundamentally different, more disciplined, and higher performing approach to achieving large-scale social impact.” Another interesting revelation emerges in the article, highlighting that “[e]ven the attempt to use these ideas seems to stimulate renewed energy and optimism”.

Taking readers on a journey exploring what it takes for collective impact to succeed, the authors discuss important elements such as the preconditions for collective impact, the phases of bringing collective impact to life, and the value (and complexities) of shared measurement systems. Here, the article refers to the collective impact and shared measurement efforts of the Calgary Homeless Foundation as an example of how a system can align for significant impact (see Demonstrating Value blog post Shared Measurement and the Calgary Homeless Foundation). Structural elements critical to the longevity of a collective impact approach are also discussed, emphasizing the importance of a “backbone organization” and “cascading levels of linked collaboration”.   

The article concludes with some reflection on the intangible benefits of collective impact, illustrating how hope and optimism can arise from these efforts as belief in an improved future is sparked and sustained.

“[W]e believe that there is no other way society will achieve large-scale progress against the urgent and complex problems of our time, unless a collective impact approach becomes the accepted way of doing business.”   – Fay Hanleybrown, John Kania, & Mark Kramer, “Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work.” Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog. January 26, 2012.

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