Collective Impact for the environment

Posted 1 year ago at 10:15 pm

Collective impact has a huge body of research and examples focussed on social outcomes.  Is anyone aware of, or interested in how to apply collective impact to enviornmental challenges, where socio-economic benefits are also considered and factored in?

I have a particualr interest in how to shift to a more holistic approach in designing solutions that move away from compartmentalising social, environmental and economic challenges.  Its about a collective impact approach that sees collaboration as more than just agencies and communites to socio-economic and environmental wellbeing. 


Clara Blakelock

backbone organization

I have just been thinking about this! We are working on a collective impact initative to address urban flooding in Ontario. We're still in the early stages and I would love to read about more examples of collective impact addressing environmental challenges. 

Submitted by Clara Blakelock on Tue, 2017-10-31 10:06

Hi Ciara I haven't found much specifically on environment, but did find a good webpage with an excellent case study using a social problem and a breakdown description of how the steps fit together., 

It appears that taking on envrionemtnal challgnes using this model is a new space. I'm keen to connect a couple of people who are working on this to share our journey.  Would you be up for a group skype chat?

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Tue, 2017-10-31 17:19

Richard Whatman

technical assistance provider / consultant

Nice coincidence too.  I am just beginning work on how to make "Place-Based Approaches" more effective in Scotland, a 6 month project funded by the Scottish Government and being undertaken by the Corra Foundation.  

We are working on developing 'framing' tools that allow people to consider 'place' embedded in social, economic and environmental contexts.  At the moment we are leaning heavily on the work of Kate Raworth and "Doughnut Economics"  She has an 'embedded economy' diagram that I am hoping to adapt with the Doughnut - flooding was on the agenda for us as it is a big issue here.  

Something with a lot of traction in Scotland is the 'Place Standard', which integrates many of Raworths concerns in the doughnut  Also Scot Gov has had a National Performance Framework that is a good jumping off point for our work: 

Delaware has a good planning-led approach called 'complete communities' 

I would be very happy to keep chatting about this as we try to work out our approach - we are 1 month in, so lots of time to run.  Any other egs or places to look would be very much appreciated. 

Submitted by Richard Whatman on Tue, 2017-10-31 15:18

Hi Richard

Your project sounds fascinating! New Zealand hosted the social enterpise world forum last month and Scotland was well represented.  The leadership that the Scottish Govt is taking in this space was very inspiring! I have added a comment to this thread about setting up a Skype video conference to discuss what we're all doing and share ideas, challenges.  If you have a look at this webpage and check out the tab on Bernie Works its an excellent case study.  There is also a very good step by step break down on the aspects of applying CI. 

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Tue, 2017-10-31 17:14

Thanks so much for the links Richard-Kate and the dougnut economy are amazing!  It brought together a whole lot of things I've been thinking about and wondering how they relate, and this was like a light bulb moment!

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Wed, 2017-11-01 16:53

Lynne Wardle

technical assistance provider / consultant

Hi Richard,

I was looking through this thread and saw your name.  Serendipity!  It would be great to catch up and share some Scotland experiences. We are a few months into a ESF / Scottish Government funded initiative to bring Collective Impact approaches to deprived and fragile communities in Scotland. We're working with communities and community leaders in Dundee, Aberdeen and East Lothian.  Relating to this thread, I think we need to be more explicit about socio-economic factors in our place-based and collective impact work and integrate these into thinking.  I'd like to experiment with a single metric - economic value added - but I doubt I'll get people to give it a try over the timescale of an economic cycle to see if it flies!

Anyway, I'll drop you a line on email and hopefully we can catch up over coffee.

Great to see you pop up!


Submitted by Lynne Wardle on Mon, 2018-02-05 17:27

Fantastic to hear what your both doing. I have just started looking at how to apply CI to build cross sector collaboration between the Department of Conservation, local Govt and a community organisaiton to improve regional ecological outcomes on a large scale.   I've shared the CI concept to the leaders of each organisation, and had initial support to explore. Reading the various steps involved in CI, I can see complexity already!  A friend of mine is also startign the CI journey looking at improving lake health in her role as environmental manager for an indigenous organisation.   Would you be interested in taking part in an online discussion, preferably video-conferencing, to share our journeys so far?  This is new ot me and my freind, so it would b great to discuss more, as most of what I'm reading re CI applies to social challgnes, alhtough I can see the principles are the same.  I guess the difference might be building the drive for change, which is essential to drive colloboration.  In NZ environmental often takes a back seat to economic or social, and we still see everything sitting in seperate compartments. 

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Tue, 2017-10-31 16:39

Aaron Ferguson

backbone organization

Hi Carolyn, et al.

I work for an organization called Spruce Root. Spruce Root is a Community Development Financial Institution founded by an Alaska Native corporation that serves as the backbone support organization for the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, a collective impact network that serves rural, traditionally Alaska Native villages across Southeast Alaska, to create more resilient communities through a triple-bottom line approach. We are working together to create more localized economies, develop energy independence, establish food security, and better steward our forests and fisheries. I’d love to connect with you all to share ideas. Other organizations in the collective impact and environment spaces that I have spoken with or read about include: Coast Funds in B.C. Canada, Intertwine Allicance in Portland, OR, Green Umbrella in Cincinatti, ChangeScale in San Francisco, Puwallup Watershed Initiative in Tacoma, WA, and the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana. Let me know if you want to chat or if you have any other ideas for organizations I can learn from.

Submitted by Aaron Ferguson on Tue, 2017-10-31 20:42

Wow!  I am so inspired by what's going on in the world!  Seems like the US is well down this track. Love to hear more aobut your work.

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Wed, 2017-11-01 16:54

Richard Whatman

technical assistance provider / consultant

Hello all who are engaging on this thread.  Carolyn, I confess to being a Kiwi working in Scotland, so know your situation well - I used to be in the Dept of Labour and Dept of Building and Housing before they became MBIE.  The new government is likely to open up the possibility of working in and with complexity, though as you say, that has not been the general way of things in NZ.  

Aaron, I will have a look at the links and groups you set out below.  Even their titles are intriguing.  One place in Scotland that is absolutely fascinating is the Isle of Eigg - a development trust owns the Island, it is self-sufficient in electricity, manages a range of other services, and is thoroughly well organised: 

I am too early in my work to be much more use to others, but would happily chat, should that be something people want to do.  In a month or two it would be good for me to share the ideas that we are creating to have some critique.  The work will be seeking to establish how we can generate useful system change in relation to Place-Based Approaches, so will cover how to connect with and shape national and local policy agendas, as well as set out what makes effective practice of PBAs.

Looking forward to further conversations.


Submitted by Richard Whatman on Wed, 2017-11-01 07:51

Hi Richard great to connect with another kiwi although I confess to being a Scott living in NZ! I immigrated as a child but its still my turangwaewae.

Agree re opportunties coming from the new Government. And having hosted the Social Enterprise World Forum in NZ that has also created momentum 

What are you working on over there and how do you come to be there?  

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Sun, 2017-11-05 22:23

Richard Whatman

technical assistance provider / consultant

Ha!  That is a lovely mirror image then.  We came to Scotland because NZ is a looong way from much else.  And my partner, Heather, is from Nth Ireland, and we had/have 2 small kids, so it was a chance to travel whilst living and working on the opposite (almost) side of the world.  Scotland has treated us very well, Edinburgh has proven to be a very easy city to live in with the kids.  Heaps to do, beautiful, and easy to get to other places from.

Heather had the main job for 4 years, and since I have been (trying) to work full-time contracting.  Not easy in the age of austerity.  The work I am doing now for Corra Foundation is funded by Scottish Governmen, it is how to make 'Place-Based Approaches' more effective.  The idea of 'PBAs' has informed a lot of policy thinking here, but the general feeling is that it has fallen short of what people hoped for it. The project has, as its desire, that we might produce some 'system change', leveraging (in Meadow's approach) change at intervention points that we will uncover as we go.  It is a big ask; wish us luck.  I found collective impact earlier in the year working on 'Preventative Spend' for the Improvemenet Service (which works with Local Auths here to improve their performance); there was lots that I liked about the approach so signed up to the forum.  That's the story so far.

I listened to Rod Oram talking about the SE World Forum; it did sound exciting, and certainly would fit well with the general NZ approach to policy and life.  I hope the movement 'kicks on' back home.




Submitted by Richard Whatman on Mon, 2017-11-06 04:31

Hi Richard

I'm coming to Edinburgh in September for the SEWF and would love to catch up and hear how your work is progressing, if possible.  Let me know your thoughts and also suggestions of people/projects it might be useful to connect with while I'm there.  My email is if you want to discuss 'offline'.  Thanks Carolyn 

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Fri, 2018-04-13 02:18

Isabel Carlisle

backbone organization

Hello everyone

I just came across this and am feeling really excited to connect. I am the co-founder of a new organisation called the Bioregional Learning Centre in Devon, England. This is a backbone organisation that has been founded to address systemic change in economy and ecology here.

On the environment front we are working with our local Catchment Partnership to enact a watershed charter for our local river the Dart. And then follow that up with a Doughnut tool that local communities can use! I am speaking with one of the Doughnut team next week and can share outcomes with you all. We see this as a prototype that can then be shared with other watersheds and communities.

Here in England and Wales the UK government responded to the EU Water Framework by setting up around 110 Catchment Partnerships to manage rivers from source to sea. But there is not much funding around for agencies to address big issues like flooding and topsoil loss: it is going to take all of us pulling together. The 'all of us' bit is where the Bioregional Learning Centre comes in. Unless we all connect in to becoming indigenous to place (and by that I mean feeling we belong and are responsible) nothing much is going to change.

I would love to be part of an on-line discussion and can offer my Zoom account to hold that. I see already that there is much I can learn from you all.

All good wishes, Isabel

Submitted by Isabel Carlisle on Wed, 2017-11-01 13:16

Thanks Isabel I'm feeling excited about what's happpening and how we can share ideas and spread the approach! I only read about the doughnut via Richards post and it sounds amazing.  Interested to hear how you are applying it in a practical sense.

Thanks for the offer to host on zoom.

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Wed, 2017-11-01 16:57

Lynne Wardle

technical assistance provider / consultant

Hi Isabel

Your work sounds facinating!  I'm in the process of establishing a UK Centre for Collective Impact called Kinworks.  Kinworks adopts a living systems perspective and our entry point is most often in helping people to develop their capacity for working with complexity and leading systems change.  We've been funded by Scottish Government, the European Social Fund and Big Lottery.  We'd be delighted to share our approach, tools and methods.  Currently we are quite focused on social issues but my background is in the commercial sector where I worked on collaboration and systems change in oil and gas, telecoms and developing markets.  I'm really interested to learn from you and others in the thread and to understand the potential for collective impact approaches in other settings.

Best wishes, Lynne

Submitted by Lynne Wardle on Mon, 2018-02-05 17:41

So great to meet you all!  Clearly there is some fantastic work happening in this space! Sounds like everyone is keen to connect up.  Isabel has offered Zoom.  Is anyone else interested in doing a Zoom video-hook up?  I'm happy to offer some low key facilitation, with a few prompts for discussion, or we can just free style it?

Given we span Canada, US, NZ and the UK we might need to be flexible on time :)

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Wed, 2017-11-01 17:02

Aaron Ferguson

backbone organization

I'm interested! Looks as though when it is 11 a.m. here in Alaska, it is 8 a.m. in New Zealand the next day, and 7 p.m. in Scotland the same day.

Submitted by Aaron Ferguson on Wed, 2017-11-01 18:41

Richard Whatman

technical assistance provider / consultant

I can certainly do that time, with notice, as I will have to do deals with my partner around the 'rug rats'. 


Submitted by Richard Whatman on Thu, 2017-11-02 10:44

Isabel Carlisle

backbone organization

Lovely to hear the postive response to a Zoom chat. I was wondering about a Doodle poll to help us find a day we can all do, but that means giving out our email addresses. Would that be a good next step? Tho looking at my diary I don't have many 7pm UK time options to offer. Apart from 7th and 8th November the next vacant evening is 21st. And after that 28th and 30th.

Submitted by Isabel Carlisle on Thu, 2017-11-02 14:57

Richard Whatman

technical assistance provider / consultant

I can do any of those days, though Tuesdays are not quite as good as the other days.  Let me know what works, and I am ok about sharing emails.

Submitted by Richard Whatman on Thu, 2017-11-02 16:43

Hi all I can't do the 7th or 8th but I can do the 21st.  So I'm assuming that will be the 20th for Aaron in Alaska and the 21st for me and the UK people? 8am NZ time, 11am Alaskan and 7pm UK.  I might invite another friend. I'm happy to share my email as its on my profile anyway.  Havent used ZOOM before-do I need an account?

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Sat, 2017-11-04 04:21

Aaron Ferguson

backbone organization

I can do the 21st too. If we meet at 7 pm UK on the 21st it will be 10 am on the 21st in AK (darn daylight savings time) and 8 am in NZ on the 22nd. 

Submitted by Aaron Ferguson on Mon, 2017-11-06 12:50

Kristin Weiss

backbone organization

We are a collective impact organization that applies the model to environmental challenges. We're based in Cincinnati, OH and serve a 10 county Tri-State area. Our website provides info on our issue areas, 2020 regional goals, action teams and initiatives, and progress metrics: Hope this helps, Carolyn!

Submitted by Kristin Weiss on Tue, 2017-11-07 11:49

Thanks Kristin will check out your website

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Sun, 2017-11-19 23:26

Chris Thompson

backbone organization, funder of initiatives

Dear Carolyn,

If you haven't yet connected with Curtis Ogden of the Interaction Institute for Social Change, I encourage you to do so. He's one of the better practitioners/thinkers about environmental issues and collective approaches.

I'd welcome staying connected to your discussion, as this is a priority issue for me.



Submitted by Chris Thompson on Mon, 2017-11-13 13:05

Thanks Chris I will connect withCurtis and be great to have you connected to our fourm too

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Sun, 2017-11-19 23:25

Hi all the Zoom chat isnt coming together but I will look to set up a time for an online catch up for those that are interested.  What topics would you want to cover?  eg profile and hear about one project followed by a disucssion? We could record and share for those unable to attend with time differences - keen for thoughts and also its fantastric to see what's happening out there -thanks everyone who has joined in so far!!

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Sun, 2017-11-19 23:29

Isabel Carlisle

backbone organization

Hello everyone!

So sorry to drop out of the conversation. I am really happy to set up a Zoom chat and would really love to connect with you all. I was wondering if a Doodle poll was the best way to find that first date, but I also see there is a possibility of meeting tomorrow Tuesday 21st on Zoom. Is that right? If it could be around 8pm UK time that would work for me as I have a prior meeting at 6pm.

Richard, did you know that the Doughnut team has a Scottish doughnut analysis? Would you like me to send it to you? My email is

Submitted by Isabel Carlisle on Mon, 2017-11-20 06:05

Thanks Isabel

21st was too short notice now. Are you on a Zoom plan? I notice that the free version limits the number and time for group videoconferencing.  I have Skype for business which is more flexible. I'll do another post and ask people for their emails so we can set up a doodle poll. Also I'd love to see the scottish donut model. Email

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Mon, 2017-11-20 15:09

Morning from New Zealand! Those who are keen to video conference are you happy to post your email addresses so we can get a doodle poll going and find a time that suits people.

Richard thanks for telling me about the donut economic model -I hadn't heard of it and its exactly what I was looking for!  The scottish Govts targets and measurements are interesting.  It appears that its a slow process turning some of those negative statistics around.

Chris - thanks for the info on Curtis Ogden, I now want to go to the States and join a training session. 

Aaron the spruce root is what Akina Foundation is trying to do in NZ. This looks like an excellent programme

Kirstin - Green umbrella looks fantastic, and I've shared it with people I'm working with as a practical example of collective impact across the wellbeings of environment and people. I recommend reading the posts on here and following some of the links that people have shared.

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Mon, 2017-11-20 15:21

Richard Whatman

technical assistance provider / consultant

Hello all.  I am about to have a miserable week of work - lots to do, little time.  Glad you doughnuts (UK spelling!) and hitting the spot.  I will try to tag along with whatever might be organised, and would be grateful if something can be.  Otherwise will stay in touch through the forum.  Richard. 

Submitted by Richard Whatman on Mon, 2017-11-20 15:38

Isabel Carlisle

backbone organization

Hi Carolyn

Thanks for being our proactive group member! I am about to email you the Scottish doughnut. Yes, I do have a Zoom account and am happy to offer it for this call.

All best, Isabel

Submitted by Isabel Carlisle on Tue, 2017-11-21 08:42

Hi everyone

I'm trying to understand how design thinking/co-design fits into collective impact and also how you bring the social, economic and environmental factors together into the planning and action team phases.   Also how do I as a Govt employee lead a project whilst also creating space for a community group to be the backbone organisation?

Your help gratefully received!

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Tue, 2017-11-28 23:20

Richard Whatman

technical assistance provider / consultant

Carolyn, I have been beyond busy, but am slowly coming up for air.  Could I talk with you about this?  I developed the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme in NZ, so know something of your landscape.  We could have a skype or FaceTime call if you would like.  

Submitted by Richard Whatman on Tue, 2017-12-12 15:57

Hi Richard


Sorry its been ages!  I was away for 2 months on leave and then been full flight since returning! Isobal is keen to organise a group Zoom catch up-would you be interested?  Also be great to talk to you about your experiences.  My email is

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Sun, 2018-03-25 22:49

Lynne Wardle

technical assistance provider / consultant

Hi Carolyn

I've really enjoyed reading the thread here - sorry I'm late to the party!  To respond to your questions, we use many of the tools and methods from service design in our collective impact approach.  I'd be happy to send you some of our stuff - toolkits etc.  I'm on if you'd like to drop me a line and exchange details.  However, we've found that the design mindset it a valuable enabler in our collective impact work.  We work with local collaborations to help create the conditions for self-sustaining change and 'design' is a kind of underpinning work practice that we find contributes greatly to this.  In terms of leadership and governance, we come from a living systems perspective and we develop what we've called design-led leadership practices amongst local collaboratives.   We work in the open and we iterate throughout.  We encourage a 'creative discontent' to energise collaborations towards a shared inquiry in the early stages of the work.  We engage members of the community using a range of design tools and methods.  Even the measurement and evaluation is informed by principles of protoyping.

To answer your second question, as a Govt employee leading a project whilst creating space for a community group to be the backbone is a tough gig.  You will be at the fulcrum of a changing power dynamic.  Perhaps you could think of leadership as 'creating the space' for the change.  In many significant change programmes, it is incredibly helpful to have a well regarded and influential stakeholder who can 'patrol the boundaries'.  By this I mean being constantly vigilant, protecting the space for the programme to grow - and perhaps to have some early failures - and proactively engaging with influencers and those who could stop the programme before it gets fully off the ground.  The moto, "serve to lead' might be helpful here.  How can you best serve the initiative rather than how can you best lead it?  If you adopt that mindset, you'll find that they can be the same thing.

Good luck!



Submitted by Lynne Wardle on Mon, 2018-02-05 18:01

Gabriela Anaya

backbone organization

Hello Carolyn,

I am part of the backbone team supporting a CI initiative related to fisheries sustainability in Mexico. We are in the process of organizing for impact, and we are likely to target the intersection between the environment, social development, markets, and governance. Happy to talk with you if helpful (




Submitted by Gabriela Anaya on Sun, 2018-02-04 14:12

Thanks Gabriela


Do you have any info on your project? Sounds fascinating!  

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Sun, 2018-03-25 22:53

Sandra Cooke

backbone organization

Hello everyone!  

When I logged on today, I couldn't believe that I saw this threat on CI and the Environment.

I have been facilitating or 'leading from behind' an initiative in the Grand River watershed, Ontario Canada.  The initiative that I am part of is to facilitate a process to ensure that we continually improve water management in the watershed. Over the past 15 years I have been part of the exploration and development of the partnership and collective work to advance water management.  I have been using the CI framework as my guide to keep our partners at the table, ensure advancement of our actions listed in the plan; continue to communicate and share information; use common measures to report on progress and maintain the 'common agenda' for all of our partners (~16) at the table. I can't say that it is a perfect fit with CI but I do use it to help me faciliate the process.

I have made presentations regarding this work using the CI framework, but it is my hope that i can finally write a paper on it this year and get it out there.  We are fortunate here in Ontario as we have watershed-based agencies (Conservation Authorities) that could take on that 'neutral integrator/backbone support).  

Here is the webpage for our Water Mgmt Plan:

At first read, CI will not jump out at you but many elements of CI are in behind this plan.  

Any comments, questions, suggestions are welcome.  Our process is reaching maturity and I am thinking that we will be flowing into a 'new phase/new normal' as many of our partners' actions and our own have been implemented.  

Clara,  we should connect as flooding is part of our Plan.

All the best,   

Sandra Cooke ( 



Submitted by Sandra Cooke on Wed, 2018-02-14 15:45

Hi Sandra


That sounds fantastic! I will check out your site. Would love to hear from you what you've found the biggest challenges and tools for keeping those diverse groups at the table, particularly relating to building culture and team, and the role Govt played in that.

Submitted by Carolyn Smith on Sun, 2018-03-25 22:56

Isabel Carlisle

backbone organization

Hello Environment Group

Just catching up with this thread and feeling excited to see what is emerging. Here in South Devon we are working on water management with our Catchments Partnership, focusing on whole-systems and governance, especially with the intent of involved Civil Society. We are trialling a River Charter (which I am happy to send to any of you who are interested) and look to set up a network of volunteer River Keepers and a River Council. I think it would be really valuable if we could all find a time to Zoom as I sense there is much to share. I can find time on 3, 4, or 5 April. Shall we share emails and then set up a Doodle to fix a time? My email is Looking forward to more connecting.

Submitted by Isabel Carlisle on Mon, 2018-03-26 05:16