Study on Social Change Outcomes Learned from Collective Impact Initiatives

Since the publication of Collective Impact in the winter 2011 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, this approach to cross-sector collaboration has been adopted by hundreds of partnerships across the globe.  Many collective impact efforts have reported achieving positive results through their work, but to date there has not been a methodologically rigorous study of the approach’s impact across multiple efforts on multiple social issues.

For this reason the Collective Impact Forum has commissioned an independent, third party study of the field of collective impact.  The intent of the study is to understand the ways in which collective impact has contributed to population level and system change outcomes in a sample of collective impact efforts across the U.S. and Canada. The study will highlight where and how population level and system change outcomes are being achieved, challenges and opportunities collective impact efforts are experiencing, issues of sustainability, and lessons learned from these efforts. The research will look to all of you – the field of collective impact practitioners – to identify which sites to study; a detailed request for site nominations is included at the end of this blog.

After an intensive four month LOI and RFP process, we are excited to announce that we have hired two firms who will be working in collaboration – ORS Impact and Spark Policy Institute, to design and implement this research study. We received some excellent proposals, but in the end, we were impressed with the knowledge, expertise, experience, and questions these firms brought to this work.

At the Collective Impact Forum, we are looking forward to the potential learning that will emerge from this independently conducted study. Our mission is to help partnerships using the collective impact approach improve their practice, so that they can better achieve results for their target populations, and we anticipate powerful lessons learned to emerge from this research.

Our independent consultants, Jewlya Lynn of Spark Policy Institute and Sarah Stachowiak of ORS Impact, shared with us their enthusiasm for taking on this project:  “At Spark and ORS, we are excited about the opportunity to contribute to the field’s understanding of the potential impact of the collective impact approach.  Since collective impact hit the social sector scene, there has been both excitement for and skepticism about its value. At its base, a true inquiry into the degree to which collective impact can be said to be supporting ultimate impact piqued our interests. We bring both experience in collective impact as well as a healthy skepticism to this work and will deploy a creative, rigorous design so we can credibly understand collective impact’s contribution to systemic and population level change.  Both our firms also have a strong commitment to field building, an important result of this engagement.”

In addition, we would like to thank the funders supporting this study: the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Houston Endowment, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Spark Policy and ORS also are looking to the field to help identify initiatives to participate in the study.  In order to learn from a broad range of examples, this study will look at mature initiatives that have been using the collective impact approach deeply enough and for long enough to expect to see both systems changes and population-level impacts. Spark Policy and ORS define a mature site as one that is well past the agenda setting and action planning stage, and is at least two years into implementing action together. The research team also wants to look at examples of initiatives from across different issue areas (e.g., education, health, economic development, juvenile justice reform, and the environment) and community sizes, including large urban centers, mid-size cities, and rural settings.

If you know of a site that could help inform the field’s understanding of collective impact and how and when it leads to meaningful on-the-ground changes, please click here to nominate that site. The link will take you to a brief form that asks a few questions about the site so that the Spark Policy / ORS research team can assess the fit to the study’s needs. Note that results of the survey will go directly to independent researchers at ORS and Spark Policy, not the Collective Impact Forum.

As an initiative focused on learning and improvement, as well as building the capacity of partners in the field, we are eager to understand the outcomes of this study and what they can contribute to helping you advance your work. We look forward to sharing the findings and lessons learned from this study with the field in early 2018.

Have a question about this nomination process or research study? Please contact Julia Roos at Spark Policy.


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