This follow-up to FSG's 2011 Stanford Social Innovation Review article explores new examples of collective impact initiatives and provides "how to" guidance for those who seek to initiate and lead collective impact initiatives.

Update: The Spanish-language version of this article, "Encauzamiento del cambio: cómo lograr que el impacto colectivo funcione," is now added to this page for download.

An in-depth look at how organizations of all types, acting in diverse settings, are implementing a collective impact approach to solve large-scale social problems.


What does a global effort to reduce malnutrition have in common with a program to reduce teenage substance abuse in a small rural Massachusetts county?

Both have achieved significant progress toward their goals: the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has helped reduce nutritional deficiencies among 530 million poor people across the globe, while the Communities That Care Coalition of Franklin County and the North Quabbin (Communities That Care) has made equally impressive progress toward its much more local goals, reducing teenage binge drinking by 31 percent. Surprisingly, neither organization owes its impact to a new previously untested intervention, nor to scaling up a high-performing nonprofit organization. Despite their dramatic differences in focus and scope, both succeeded by using a collective impact approach.

In the winter 2011 issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review we introduced the concept of “collective impact” by describing several examples of highly structured collaborative efforts that had achieved substantial impact on a large scale social problem, such as The Strive Partnership educational initiative in Cincinnati, the environmental cleanup of the Elizabeth River in Virginia, and the Shape Up Somerville campaign against childhood obesity in Somerville, Mass. All of these initiatives share the five key conditions that distinguish collective impact from other types of collaboration: a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and the presence of a backbone organization. (See “The Five Conditions of Collective Impact” below.)

We hypothesized that these five conditions offered a more powerful and realistic paradigm for social progress than the prevailing model of isolated impact in which countless nonprofit, business, and government organizations each work to address social problems independently. The complex nature of most social problems belies the idea that any single program or organization, however well managed and funded, can singlehandedly create lasting large-scale change.