Assessing the Collective Impact Field’s Needs: Insights from Our Second Annual Survey


Earlier this year, the Collective Impact Forum gathered feedback through its second annual survey of members who have created an online profile. The purpose of this survey was to assess the Forum’s progress to date and to better understand needs in the field.

The Collective Impact Forum’s online membership grew by 55% between January 2015 (when we gathered feedback in our first annual survey) and January 2016 (when we gathered feedback in our second annual survey). We very much appreciate the 481 people who responded to the 2016 survey, up from the 244 who completed the survey last year.

The respondent profile this year is similar to last year’s survey respondent profile: almost half of respondents self-identified as backbone leaders and staff, and the majority of respondents were in the more nascent stages of their collective impact journey (e.g., 16% had not yet initiated a collective impact and were just exploring the concept, and 39% were in the early years of developing a collective impact initiative).

A few notable results about the Forum’s progress over the past year:

  • The Forum has influenced 96% of survey respondents’ understanding of collective impact and 85% of respondents’ practice of collective impact – both of which are up slightly over last year
  • Similar to last year, more than 95% of respondents say the Forum’s resources are useful or very useful
  • 72% of respondents have shared a Forum resource or publication with a colleague, which is similar to (but slightly below) the 75% of respondents who shared a resource or publication last year

Like we saw in last year’s survey, approximately three-fourths of respondents said that feedback from an expert or thought leader would be motivating or very motivating to them to participate more in the Forum’s online community. In response to this feedback last year, we launched an “Ask Me About” feature, where experts from across the social change field answer questions on a specific topic. Look for more “Ask Me About” conversations in the year to come.

In addition, survey respondents want more proof points and stories from other collective impact initiatives. Reinforcing the need for more stories and profiles, we recently launched an Initiative Directory for Forum members to share progress updates from their collective impact initiatives, and we are currently building a “share your story” feature where Forum members can more easily share stories from their projects, including what they are learning and what challenges they have faced.

Survey respondents also highlighted priority topics that the Collective Impact Forum should address in future convenings and webinars, including these top five issues:

  • Community engagement: Authentically engaging those with lived experience by ensuring that community members more actively contribute to and co-lead a collective impact initiative
  • Evaluation: Understanding how to evaluate collective impact initiatives at various stages
  • Capacity building: Supporting partners to build the skills they need for effective collective impact engagement (e.g., collecting, analyzing, and using data; collaborative mindsets)
  • Leadership: Developing the system leadership capacities needed to work on a collective impact approach (e.g., seeing the larger system, fostering reflection with partners, and co-creating with others)
  • Equity: Bringing an equity lens to collective impact by creating the conditions that enable just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential

These topics are among the central themes that will be covered in plenary and breakout sessions at the 2016 Collective Impact Convening on June 6-9 in Seattle. We will also offer a webinar series in Fall 2016 with “encore” presentations from some of the most popular sessions at the 2016 Collective Impact Convening in Seattle. Many of these themes were also discussed at the 2016 Champions for Change: Leading a Backbone Organization for Collective Impact on April 19-21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and again in October 2016 at a date/location TBD in the United States.

Beyond the valuable feedback on priority issues/topics, other notable findings about the collective impact field’s needs include:

  • Collective impact efforts have made the most progress with developing a common agenda and the least progress with shared measurement, consistent with findings in last year’s survey. Those who are farther along with their collective impact initiatives are making progress with shared measurement: 42% of early stage efforts have not yet initiated shared measurement, whereas more than 90% of mid stage efforts are already developing or implementing shared measurement.
  • Nonprofits are most engaged and businesses are the least engaged stakeholder group in collective impact efforts, which also mirrors last year’s survey findings. 38% of respondents said that they are engaging nonprofits as co-leaders, compared to 7% of respondents who said that they are engaging the business sector as co-leaders in collective impact efforts.
  • Many collective impact efforts are continuing to show progress toward behavior changes and systems changes. While many respondents remain fairly early on their collective impact journey, 38% of survey respondents said their collective impact efforts have contributed to behavior changes or systems changes. Most commonly cited behavior changes included improved data sharing and improved identification and awareness of community needs. Systems changes that were commonly referenced included change in funding flows, changes in policy and practice, and improved service coordination.

Thank you again to those who completed the survey. For the second straight year, your feedback has provided valuable insights on the Forum’s work and needs in the field.

What do you think? Do you have any other suggestions or feedback for us to better support the collective impact field?


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