Collective Impact 2014 – Why Philanthropists and Business Should Be There

The cohort of ‘early adopters’ of Collective Impact must move beyond community and government leaders and include more philanthropists and business leaders, according to social change advocates Dawn O’Neil AM and Kerry Graham.   

We have been blogging and talking about Collective Impact for just over a year now and have been knocked side-ways by the response.  That’s not to say our work has triggered the movement – not at all!   There are a growing number of people and organisations promoting and testing the Collective Impact approach, such as Ten20 FoundationSocial Ventures AustraliaTomorrow Today FoundationTogether SA.  However, what our work has done is provide us a platform from which to learn and see where this approach is resonating.

The significant majority of people who have commented on our blogs, called, or participated in events we have run with the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) have been from the community or government sectors, with more coming from the community than government.  It is the same with the Collective Impact 2014 conference we are holding in late February with CSI and Social Leadership Australia.

In the diffusion of innovation – a theory that explains how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures – these people are early adopters.  However, for Collective Impact to thrive in Australia, it is absolutely essential that the community and government sectors alone do not become the early majority.

Let us explain why.

Collective Impact is a framework to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems. It is an innovative and structured approach to making collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organisations and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change.  The approach is premised on the belief that no single policy, government department, organisation or program can tackle or solve the increasingly complex social problems we face as a society.

Collective Impact brings the unique perspectives and skills of multiple organisations from different sectors together into an ongoing process of collaboration and emergence.  As a result, new solutions are developed and tested, with the most impactful ones replicated and scaled.  What is important here is that the interplay between the sectors is the ‘crucible’ for new solutions to emerge.

When we were in the US in 2012 looking at successful Collective Impact initiatives we saw first-hand the roles philanthropists and business leaders play in Collective Impact initiatives.  Philanthropists were often the ‘igniters’ – enabling initiatives to start by funding the work of the core collaborators and the required infrastructure, particularly data.  Philanthropists and/or business leaders also played a convening role – often chairing collaborative initiatives and helping set a culture of focusing on results and making data based decisions.

Thinking back to the ‘crucible’, it is not enough for Australian Collective Impact initiatives to work predominantly with community and government leaders and sectors.  The highly impactful solutions are less likely to emerge. This is why we believe the cohort of ‘early adopters’ must move beyond community and government leaders and include more philanthropists and business leaders.  With the active involvement of philanthropy and business leaders, the Collective Impact approach is more likely fulfill its promise and help Australian communities tackle the social problems that have previously been unable to solve.

If you are a philanthropist or business leader who is keen to play a leadership role in solving Australia’s complex and entrenched social problems, we encourage you participate in Collective Impact 2014.

We hope to see you there.

Kerry & Dawn

– See more at:

About Kerry Graham and Dawn O'Neil

Social change consultants

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