When and How to Engage the Private Sector


Campbell Soup Company is implementing a 10-year, $10 million initiative to significantly reduce childhood obesity and hunger in the city of Camden, NJ, through its Campbell Healthy Communities program. (Video profile) Building on its work in Camden, Campbell Soup Company is also expanding the Healthy Communities program to other cities such as Norwalk, CT, Napoleon, OH, and Everett, WA, where the company has a business presence.

The Collective Impact Forum sat down with Kim Fortunato, Director of Campbell Healthy Communities program, to discuss the impetus for this collective impact initiative and what lessons the company has learned. This conversation also builds on the breakout session that Fortunato moderated, entitled “When and How to Engage the Private Sector in Collective Impact,” during the Collective Impact Convening in May 2015 in New Orleans. (Download session discussion slides)

CI Forum: What has motivated Campbell Soup Company to play a leadership role through its Healthy Communities Program?

Kim: Campbell has a long-standing commitment to social responsibility, to help deliver both sustainability and business results. We believe that giving back to the communities where we live and work is part of our DNA. We are in year four of the Healthy Communities program in Camden, and we certainly know that we can’t do this alone.

Campbell Soup Company’s leadership was really thoughtful in this long-term view of a 10-year commitment. That’s really important, especially for other private sector funders to hear. If you’re looking at any complex social issue, it might take 10+ years. Our company’s leadership committed a significant amount of resources, bringing on a dedicated full-time person, and identifying a pretty audacious goal – reducing childhood obesity and hunger in Camden by 50% in 10 years.

How have you made the case to your Campbell Soup colleagues about the importance of collective impact?

Our Heathy Communities program is very aligned with our business strategy. One of our business strategies focuses on health and well-being. Campbell wants to be a leader in that healthy foods space. We have demonstrated that in many ways through the Healthy Communities program. We are foundational to the business strategy, and we’re also foundational to our purpose: Real food that matters for life’s moments.

If Campbell products are the company’s life-blood, then we (the Healthy Communities program) are the soul. It’s what we are as a 145 year old company. This is nothing new; we’ve just created a signature program. It’s fundamental to the “why” for this company.

When I talk about the collective impact methodology internally to my business colleagues, inevitably someone comes up to me from a business unit and says, “What you’re describing (collective impact) is change management.” One of our directors who does training in marketing wanted me to speak to our marketers. This colleague told me, “It’s how we train our marketers to not think linearly, and how we bring together a diversity of partners to market our goods.” If you describe the process beyond using the words collective impact, it makes perfect sense to people in business.

How have you ensured buy-in and engagement more broadly in the community?

Camden has many challenges and is yearning for leadership across sectors, even from the philanthropic community. At the grass-tops level, it was very easy to play a leadership role because there’s only a few anchor institutions. I went out and did 90 days of meet and greet with everyone you could imagine. It was important to do that where trust needed to be built.

Specific to our food access strategy, in the first 6 months, we convened a handful of funders who were putting money into Camden around food access issues. As you often see with reactive philanthropy, funders were investing money where they thought there was a need, but without much evidence. I convened 12-15 funders of various private foundations and public sector agencies, and we had a food access expert come to speak to our group. We agreed to develop a collective strategy to address the issues of our food system and invest purposefully and aligned with the strategies.

We don’t talk too much about funding collectively, but I think we need to walk the walk. It’s incumbent upon me to encourage my organization and my funder colleagues to work that way too. That’s intentional in the strategy for me in growing our work.

How can other sectors (e.g., public, nonprofit, philanthropy) educate and engage the private sector in collective impact?

Invite us to the table. We’re not just a funder. We bring so many assets, and many of them are assets that nonprofits are lacking (e.g., marketing, strategic planning). We sometimes don’t know how to get to that table. Many corporate funders are removed. The engagement piece is what we have to highlight. This is why the Social Venture Partners model (Note for readers: Fortunato co-founded SVP-DE) is powerful because it’s premised on engaged giving. If you want to be more engaged in your giving, the collective impact framework affords that in spades.

Another premise to understand: if you’re a funder and you need your name on something, collective impact isn’t really going to work for you. I’m always very clear about that for us and our partners. It may be a bit bigger barrier for corporate funders if they want a named program. The food industry is looking at the Healthy Communities model, and interested in doing things together. Let’s do something bigger together, which wouldn’t be branded. I’m hopeful there is movement away from branding/naming and toward finding a common agenda.

To what extent can collective impact be held up as a framework to the private sector that enables more than just collaboration? Why or why not?

Collective impact is so much more than collaboration. I tend not to talk about collaboration, distinguishing collaboration and collective impact. The mindset is really different. We all talk about collaborating. We as funders talk about how we want grantees to demonstrate collaboration, or we won’t fund you. I don’t agree with that. It has to be much more intentional than collaboration. It is a dedication to the philosophy of collective work, commitment to the common agenda, and willingness to leave your ego at the door.

Obviously there are some issues, and we’ve run into them. In the opening plenary in New Orleans (at the May 2015 Collective Impact Convening), someone said the funder should never be the backbone. I think about that every day. If we were not the backbone for this work in Camden, I am not sure the work would be happening. I do believe the backbone ultimately must live in a community-based organization, but it will take time to build that capacity.  Clearly, the barriers are leadership. It’s the same barriers to everything: leadership, capacity, and infrastructure. When the power balance becomes an issue, you have barriers.

I’ve said before in our community, I don’t have the answers. I introduce collective impact at the beginning of our meetings, every time. We start our meetings with lessons learned about collective impact. I’m your partner, and I want you to hold me accountable just like I hold you accountable. Now that we’re several years into the work, it’s incumbent upon me to think about a larger, sustainable effort where a community-based organization plays the backbone role.

Many of the topics we’ve discussed today in this Q&A were addressed in the breakout session you moderated at the Collective Impact Convening in New Orleans in May 2015, entitled “When and How to Engage the Private Sector in Collective Impact.” Are there any other notable takeaways from that conversation in New Orleans?

I have a lot of takeaways from that meeting. It was such a great learning opportunity for me, the panelists, and the participants. Anybody in that room could have been moderating or speaking on the panel. There was so much expertise at the conference. I liked the opportunity to share.

One big takeaway: the culture clash between the nonprofit sector and the business sector. In business, we work in 30 or 60 minute increments. We have an agenda. We’re not just there to chat and hangout. On the flip side, nonprofits want to build relationships, go deep on issues, and maybe not be as rigid as the business sector is. You must pay attention to that culture clash.

Somebody also said in the meeting that we need to create a glossary of terms so that businesses and nonprofits understand each other. We don’t spend enough time incorporating each other’s voices. If we’re working across a diverse set of stakeholders, we need to be more mindful of incorporating one another’s voice.

Another lesson: as I said before, having the nonprofit community recognize that business can do so much more than write a check. It’s incumbent upon the nonprofit community to ask for that. The nonprofit sector often doesn’t ask, and the business sector isn’t thinking in those terms.

Also, we talked about the importance of the mindset shift required to embrace collective impact. Before getting into the five conditions of collective impact, you should talk about your philosophy and ethos. If that common understanding of values and ethos isn’t there, that’s a critical conversation you need to have. Establishing that buy-in is fundamental to success. We’ve struggled at times with that buy-in in Camden. Sometimes there’s challenging power dynamics with various partners. It goes back to the importance of ethos.

During the breakout session in New Orleans, you asked for attendees to provide feedback on a draft handout that included some collective impact lessons learned, developed by session panelist Kori Reed, Vice President of the ConAgra Foods Foundation.

We have included the latest version of those lessons learned here with suggestions incorporated from the meeting. What were some of the most important pieces of feedback for you from that the group discussion about engaging the private sector in collective impact?

I heard a lot of discussion about how nonprofits should engage the business sector in collective impact. Not much of that was surprising, but it was a consistent theme among backbone leaders and other nonprofit leaders in the room. I don’t know how you break down that wall altogether. We (the business community) need to be asked. People like to be asked to do something. We don’t necessarily know how to get involved.

I’m working with one of our brands in Washington state. There’s a 2020 health goal in Snohomish County, Washington. They have a framework in place, and they launch in July 2015. It’s a collective impact framework, and very thoughtfully done. One of Campbell Soup’s brands, Stockpot, is going to be part of the larger collective. We came into the collective very fortuitously; it was not an obvious relationship. There’s a gap there that all sectors need to aware of and think about how to better connect with each other. It’s changing the narrative around philanthropy.

To me, collective impact isn’t philanthropy. I tell people that I do impact investing for social change for the company. If we can change the narrative of “I have a big checkbook and I write a check to ‘help’ people,” to “let’s look at complex issues with a diverse group of leaders and figure out how to make meaningful change,” it makes the conversation more inclusive.

One final thought: we need to keep guardrails on what we’re doing. So many people say they’re doing collective impact. A lot of people want to be doing collective impact, but people don’t understand what it is and how difficult it is, particularly in terms of managing so many different relationships. This is a much harder way to do social change, but I can’t imagine another way to do it. We’ve created cross-sector partnerships that never existed before. The most successful part of our program so far is the framework and our approach. The partners are working together, and we’ve leveraged funds. But we still have a long way to go to significantly move the needle on childhood obesity and hunger in our community.

Thank you for your sharing your perspective with us today.

Related Post: 10 Lessons Learned from Engaging the Business Community in Collective Impact


Sign Up to Download

You will also receive email updates on new ideas and resources from Collective Impact Forum.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Confirm Your Registration

You will also receive email updates on new ideas and resources from Collective Impact Forum.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.