Study Tour Learnings

A summary of what we learned about collaborative efforts during our study tour in September 2012.

“The discourse has changed and everybody is talking about ‘collective impact’. The consciousness has begun to shift, we are now looking for outcomes not just outputs.”     Nan Stone The Bridgespan Group 

“We can do a better job together by mobilizing the stakeholders on the ground. Promoting a brand at the expense of good outcomes is a fools errand.”     Rob Reifsnyder United Way Cincinatti

Developing a common agenda:

“This work is about getting people to imagine, believe, own and be accountable. “ Shona Smith, RAISE Washington DC
  • Get the vision right
  • Make sure all the right people are involved in this stage.
  • At the start you need those with most senior influence to invite people to the table in the first place to give project adequate gravitas.
  • Have key powerful influencers invite everyone to the table
  • Diversity of views is essential throughout the establishment and in an ongoing way so ensure ALL actors are involved. Make sure there are a good cross section and ‘not the usual suspects’ from one sector involved
  • Don’t let people rush into the governance or other aspects of the planning until a common agenda has been fully agreed.
  • This is frequently difficult and takes time – could be up to 2 years before a shared agenda and measures are agreed on
  • Collectives have been most successful when all actors are part of the initial process – people from all parts of the community must involved from the start
  • Skilled facilitation can make a big difference at this stage – this is not the time to ‘do it yourself’ – get professional help
  • Must agree at this stage that you will track progress – use some sort of software to track results – get your systems in place as early as possible
  • Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone – this is hard work
  • Be open to changing your views – leave egos at the door
  • This is a creative process whereby as is often the case there is a struggle or crisis before the ‘ah ha’ moment comes

Shared Measurement:

“The easier it is to find metrics – the easier it is to make the promise”.  
Nan Stone CEO The Bridgespan Group and author of Zeroing in on Impact.
  • Set the targets in as specific a way as possible
  • Be clear on what problem you are trying to solve and where you want to focus
  • Focus is key – define your goals as much as possible based on data
  • Don’t announce goals unless there are resources to support the process – need a resourced roadmap when you go public.
  • Use data to be honest and have courageous conversations, highlight issues and drive change –
  • Don’t make decisions unless you have the data to base decisions on – if you don’t have the data – find a way to get it
  • Publish and share the results of changes in the data as openly as possible… its a powerful lever for change both for improvements and failures

Mutually reinforcing activities:

” The key to collective impact is to focus on the outcomes, Everyone wants to move fast but the key is to stay disciplined enough to identify the practices that get results and focus your time talent and treasure on taking those to scale. It’s all about the discipline in the end.” Jeff Edmondson.

  • This is about what can be done together better than separate;  what data can be shared; what will help everyone make better decisions; what activities can be better coordinated if we work together; what advocacy issues need to be progresse
  • Make sure those affected hold everyone to account for what they do – to judge whether the change has made a difference or not
  • Rigorous systems and processes are vital
  • What are the systems changes that need to happen to ‘move the needle’ in the right way
  • Process improvement tools needed to assist this change process such as six sigma, LEAN, Kaizan etc
  • Don’t be afraid of two steps up and one step back  – its an iterative process and the stepping back and rethinking is part of the process.
  • Be prepared for the muddy middle… and get through it.
  • Continuous improvement…is hard work but worth it if you stay focussed on the goals and have data to guide you you will make improvements.

Continuous Communication:

“Its a process – the value comes through actually going through the process at a community level and this takes patience. there is a balance here but everyone needs to have patience in the process. The process IS the work!”   Shona Smith, RAISE Washington DC.

  • Communication, communication, communication – there can never be enough of it
  • Use professional advice to communicate effectively – this is important to get the message across and engage funders, advocates, service providers, government and the business community
  • Face to face meetings are essential especially in the early days while you develop the shared agenda
  • Once the initiative is underway its important to inform all stakeholders regularly how things are progressing in terms of quantitative measures – are things getting better or not
  • Talking about failure is also important – ‘failing forward’ is where the big learnings can come so be honest when things don’t work
  • Communicate data visually and clearly so everyone can see where improvements are occurring and where they aren’t

Backbone Support:

“This work is about getting people to imagine, believe, own and be accountable. “ Shona Smith, RAISE Washington DC.
  • This is a crucial element of the Collective Impact Framework – without a well funded backbone entity or entities (sometimes this can be a shared role) then the initiative is unlikely to be a success
  • The right leadership is crucial for the backbone organisation – need to care more about the whole than the backbone
  • This work is all relationship based – building trust is absolutely essential
  • Build a team with the right skills – especially data gathering and analysis
  • Make sure those most affected are involved all the way and supported in their involvement. They have a crucial role in holding the process to account – not accept passively if they don’t feel something is right.’
  • This is a co-creation process – so all must be involved and decision making processes clear.
  • Preparing well for every meeting, getting papers out on time, ensuring decisions are based on solid data – these are all key roles for the backbone organisation

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