What separates collective impact efforts that spin their wheels from those that continue to gain traction for years to come?
After working on multiple collective initiatives over the years—including efforts to reduce poverty, improve workforce development and early childhood development systems, and end homelessness—as well as regional collaborations, it’s clear that the idea of shared management and collective commitments is attractive to those working to bring about social change. Yet managing one that has true staying power is remarkably challenging.
First incubated at the local United Way in 1998, Homeward—a nonprofit coordinating agency targeting homelessness in Richmond, Virginia became independent in 2006, and the following year, launched a collective action plan to end homelessness in the area in 10 years’ time. As a consultant to social change efforts (Saphira) and the executive director of Homeward (Kelly), we signed up to help recalibrate the initiative during its last three years, 2015-2018. The effort has many features of a collective impact approach: some 30 public and private agencies share a vision; regularly collect and interpret data; accomplish their work through a hub of work groups; and are guided by a backbone organization that has public and private funding sources, and community recognition. Working together, these agencies have contributed to an almost 30 percent drop in homelessness since 2009.