How can new forms of collaboration help everyone get a good job?

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In 2011 researchers discovered that what most people in the world want is a good job[1].  In publishing their research, they described this finding as one of the most important discoveries ever made.  More than that, they described it as the ‘single most searing, clarifying, helpful, world altering fact’.  They went on to urge all leaders – ‘policy makers and lawmakers, presidents and prime ministers, parents, judges, priests, pastors, imams, teachers, managers, and CEO’s’  – to consider this fact every day in everything they do.

Yes, they were possibly a little zealous, but they do have a point.  If everyone having a good job is what everyone wants, then surely we need everyone to act in a way that achieves that. But how do we do that? And how do we do that in a way inclusive of people with multiple disadvantages?

One movement – originating in the US and taking off globally – may have some answers.  It is called Collective Impact.  The movement started in December 2010 when Collective Impact was documented as a framework by John Kania and Mark Kramer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR).  It became SSIR’s most downloaded article ever.  It went viral.

Collective Impact is premised on a few beliefs.  One is that the world will become ever more increasingly complex.  As our global population increases by another 2.5 billion by 2050 – complexity will become the new normal.  This increased complexity will require governments, businesses and civil society everywhere the rethink the way we live and work.  Accordingly, Collective Impact provides a framework for government, business and civil society to work together to tackle our most complex social challenges, like everyone having a good job.

Another belief is that data and discipline will be required to understand and respond to complexity.  Of course the business world has known for a long time that disciplined approaches for managing big complex projects, such as building bridges or other infrastructure, are essential.  Collective Impact enshrines this disciplined approach into addressing complex social challenges.

Where Collective Impact has gained most traction in the USA has been an initiative called Strive Together http://www.strivetogether.org. Strive Together aligns the work of hundreds of organisations to support all children from Cincinnati’s most disadvantaged suburbs from ‘cradle to career’. It too has gone viral, with 115 Strive sites now operating across America as members of the Strive Network.

Collective Impact is more than collaboration.  It is a mechanism that allows previously silo’d parts of society to come together and innovate to solve specific social problems. It is also a fundamental shift away from the idea that one program, organisation, company or initiative can resolve the complex problems that beset our society.

We believe Collective Impact can significantly contribute to evolving the way social change happens in Australia.  To quote one of the authors of Collective Impact – Mark Kramer – “the next 10 years will show more progress in solving the world’s social problems than we have seen in the past 50.”


[1] Jim Clifton, The Coming War on Jobs (2011)

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This is an article we wrote for ProBono Australia’s publication on CSR.

About Kerry Graham and Dawn O'Neil

Social change consultants

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