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Towards Collective Impact

Reflections on ‘Towards Collective Impact’ by Jenny Riley, our Community Impact Manager.

MShared measurement requires us to each understand each other, after two days at the Progressing Social Outcomes Measurement I am hopeful because the discourse is getting stronger and we are getting better at asking better questions i.e.  is what we are doing making a difference and how can we use this information to improve our practice.

Our responsibility is to take this language back into our organisations and networks and share what we have learnt.

Why is there an increasing focus on collaboration in the sector? Because we know that wicked problems such as climate change, obesity and Indigenous disadvantage are shaped by many inter-dependent factors which are all constantly changing and are deeply rooted in our economic and social structures and require a different way of working. Combine this with an explosion of not-for-profit agencies (See Surge in charities prompts warning over donations) that tells us 2,300 new charities registered in 2013 (doubled on the year before) and an emerging evidence base that demonstrates the effectiveness of collaborative efforts we have a perfect storm.

Shared measurement can assist us in navigating this storm, as I wrote earlier this week, that without it, collaborations will fail. At United Way we have set off on collaborations without nailing the common goal and found ourselves adrift, we have also seen the power of a strong goal such as 90 Homes for 90 Lives in providing guidance, momentum and inspiration.

Our experience in measurement across the three phases of collective impact, from discovery to design to delivery looks this way:


> Locating community level data for a baseline

> Community Report Card


> Facilitating cross-sector collaborations in identifying a common start point (point A) and a common goal (point B) and how we think we were going to get there

> Facilitating the development of shared measurement frameworks that document the how, what and who of tracking outcomes against the common goal.


> Collecting, tracking and reporting against the framework.

This is a huge paradigm shift for a sector that has traditionally worked in silos, collected output data (numbers of activities, people, resources distributed) rather than outcomes (i.e. change in behavior, attitude, circumstances, knowledge and skills) and has reported for compliance reasons rather than learning and improvement.

There is an opportunity here. By measuring the same things, together, we can develop a common language and way of working that moves us beyond measurement paralysis or trying to isolate and measure our individual outcomes in a messy, complex, ever-changing community. My suggestion is start small in your collaboration, agree on 1 goal and 3 common outcomes and learn how to measure, track and report these together. From here we can be driven by data-informed decisions and begin to make a collective impact.



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