Supporting a Sustainable and Resilient Collaboration – Part 1


What practices can support the sustainability and resiliency of a long-term collaboration?

This podcast episode is the first of a two-part discussion that explores what can help a collaborative be more sustainable and resilient. For this conversation, we welcome our colleagues from the Tamarack Institute, Liz Weaver and Mike Des Jardins, who recently authored a new, free-to-access resource called “10: A Guide for Building a Sustainable and Resilient Collaboration.” In this first part, we discuss tips, stories, and resources that support sustainability practices for collective impact efforts. Interviewing Liz and Mike for this conversation is Collective Impact Forum executive director Jennifer Splansky Juster.

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Please find a transcript of this talk further down this page.

References and Footnotes

More on Collective Impact


The Intro music, entitled “Running,” was composed by Rafael Krux, and can be found here and is licensed under CC: By 4.0.

The outro music, entitled “Deliberate Thought,” was composed by Kevin Macleod. Licensed under CC: By.

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Podcast Transcript

(Intro) Welcome to the Collective Impact Forum podcast, here to share resources to support social change makers working on cross-sector collaboration.

The Collective Impact Forum is a nonprofit field-building initiative that is co-hosted in partnership by the nonprofit consulting firm FSG and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions.

In this episode, we are having a deep dive discussion about what practices can help a collaborative be more sustainable and resilient. For this conversation, we welcome our colleagues from the Tamarack Institute, Liz Weaver and Mike Des Jardins, who recently authored a new, free-to-access resource called “10: A Guide for Building a Sustainable and Resilient Collaboration.” There’s so many stories, ideas, and resources shared in the guide, so this episode is the first of a two-part conversation with Liz and Mike. In this episode, we are exploring sustainability practices, and in the next part, coming out later this month, we will dive into practices that can support collaboration resiliency. Interviewing Liz and Mike for this conversation is Collective Impact Forum executive director Jennifer Splansky Juster. Let’s listen in.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s podcast. I’m Jennifer Juster, executive director of the Collective Impact Forum. Here at the Forum our mission is to support communities engaged in equity-centered, place-based collaborative systems change work often called collective impact. In doing so we are in conversations with many people doing important and challenging work in their communities. And one of the biggest challenges or pain points that we often hear about is the challenge of sustainability for this collaborative work. And that challenge applies to both financially sustaining work, this collaborative infrastructure required, as well as maintaining the engagement and commitment of partners over the long term.

So when today’s guests and colleagues at the Tamarack Institute let us know they were planning a guide focused on sustainable and resilient collaboration, I knew this would be an essential and very popular resource. So here to discuss this guide with me today is the team that developed the guide from the Tamarack Institute, Liz Weaver, co-CEO, and Mike Des Jardins, manager of sustainability and development of communities building youth futures.

So before handing it over to them, let me just do a brief introduction beyond titles. Liz is the co-CEO at Tamarack where she leads the Tamarack Learning Center, which is focused on advancing community change leadership. The Tamarack Learning Center provides five strategic interconnected practices including collective impact, collaborative leadership, community engagement, community innovation, and evaluating collective impact. Liz is known for her thought leadership on collective impact and is the author of several popular and academic papers on the topic. Liz is passionate about the power and potential of communities getting to impact on complex issues.

Also, as I mentioned, we’re delighted to have Mike Des Jardins, the manager of sustainability and development for communities building youth futures. In this role, Mike is responsible for sustainability planning, researching and sharing best practices related to the sustainability and resilience of youth collective impact work, coaching CDYF communities on developing and implementing sustainability strategies and telling the story of impact. Mike is a certified teacher in the province of Ontario and has worked directly with youth through program and service delivery, as well as indirectly supporting youth by creating the system conditions to support their learning, development, and wellbeing.

One thing I also want to note is this is Part 1 of a two-part conversation reflecting on the guide. Today, we will be discussing the sustainability component of building a sustainable and resilient collaboration, and we’ll go much more in depth on resilience in Part 2.

So that is probably the most I’m going to talk during today’s podcast and so first and foremost, welcome to Liz and Mike. I’d love for you to just add a little bit to your intros to tell us a little bit about what brought you to this work.

Liz Weaver: Thanks so much, Jen. I think I’ll go first, Mike, and then you can jump on board. For me, as I mentioned in my bio, I’m really interested and passionate about community change in particular. My work actually leading into this place, I led a collective impact initiative in my home community, so not only do I write about this topic but I have experienced it as well. And Mike, actually, was part of that collaborative, so we’ve intersected in different ways across our paths. Over to you, Mike.

Mike Des Jardins: We sure have, Liz, and so for 20 years I was working in Hamilton in supporting youth and community in educational settings, but then an opportunity presented itself with Communities Building Youth Futures initiative of the Tamarack Institute and I just couldn’t say no. It’s exciting to work with communities that are focused on creating youth leadership and improving their future outcomes. The sustainability of that work is integral for continued long-term impact, so it’s been a pleasure to dive deep into the topic and share back what we’ve learned to support our communities and youth and their work.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Fabulous. I think a great place to start would be to have you all share the definitions of the terms sustainability and resilience and how you defined those as you went through creating the guide.

Mike Des Jardins: I can start with those and have Liz jump in a little bit. So, for sustainability, we kind of see those as the external factors that we need to cultivate for continued collective action, things like people and resources. And then resilience tends to be the internal qualities that we need to nurture the overall health and wellbeing of the collaborative, things like tolerating ambiguity, surrendering the need for control, building caring relationships and shared leadership. They’re different but they’re so very interconnected because together they create the strong foundation that collaboration need to be sustained and resilient.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: That makes sense and Mike, I’m glad that you remind us right upfront that while they are separate, distinct topics, they are very interconnected. We will be going deeper on sustainability today, but the dimensions of resilience are equally important in keeping this work alive and impactful over the longer term. So why did you create this guide and why now? And tell us a little bit about who you engaged with in the process of creating the guide.

Liz Weaver: Some of the listeners on the podcast might already know a little bit about Tamarack, but if you don’t, we’ve been involved in this work for the last 20 years, and we’ve been supporting place-based community change over that period of time. We’ve engaged with a number of different places across Canada, the U.S., and in the global sphere, and really were thinking about what, when you’re trying to build collaboratives in place, what are those success factors of building those collaboratives, and what are some of the challenges that they continually bump up against. So really it’s a history that we had in terms of the collaborative process. We learned a lot during that time.

The guide was really developed initially for the Communities Building Youth Futures work that we’re doing at Tamarack. We have a fairly discrete five-year initiative that is investing in 20 communities, supporting young people and community-based change and so we’re really looking at how does this sustain beyond the discrete amount of time that this initiative is funded? But it actually goes beyond the CBYF initiative, or the Communities Building Youth Futures initiative. It really is also, it also takes into account the learning that we had from our collective impact work that we’ve done with the Collective Impact Forum, from the learning of our Ending Poverty work and some other areas that we’re involved in.

In developing the guide, what we did, Tamarack is well known for 10 Guides which are guides that are 10 ideas around the topic, 10 resources, 10 community stories. They usually go around this idea of 10. So in developing the guide we thought we’d really benefit from an advisory committee to help us kind of think through what are those 10 ideas, what are the things that we’ve seen but what are they also seeing?

So, Jen, I want to acknowledge that you were part of our advisory team and a really valued member of our team. But we also included people from the philanthropic sector. We included people who brought a community perspective. We wove in the advisory, the national collaborative of the Communities Building Youth Futures work. So we really tried to get a 360 lens on sustainability and resilience and really from these different perspectives deepen our understanding, get pointed to pieces of research that we probably hadn’t seen before, and really tried to learn in concert with those individuals who are practitioners in the field but also communities that are collaboratives in and of themselves and learn from them as well. So that’s a little bit of the history behind the guide.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Thank you. Being part of the advisory group was an honor. Thank you all for all of the great work that went into the resource. The focus of the guide is not just sustainability and resilience, but about sustaining a resilient collaboration.

Can you talk a little bit about what’s unique or different about sustaining collaborative community change work versus typical sustainability conversations in the NGO or nonprofit sector?

Liz Weaver: Yeah, it’s interesting, right? Because I think a lot of the things that are in the guide would be relevant to organizations in the nonprofit sector for sure. But sustaining collaboration is unique because you have multiple partners around the collaborative table. They are engaged in decision-making processes, they have to come to agreement on what they’re going to be working on together, they have unique perspectives and sometimes they might even be in competition with one another. So within that kind of environment that’s all, I think, really important to consider. And the other thing I think that we’re seeing more and more in a collaboration perspective is that they’re tackling often very complex and interconnected issues like poverty and homelessness and you know, youth’s futures, bringing the whole of community approach around supporting young people. This notion of collaboration and collaboration on complex issues is really important and how the partners are engaged in the decision-making processes.

We’ve also seen that over the course of a longer-term collaboration and typically collective impact initiatives are longer term, they’re going to be people that come into the collaborative or move off the collaborative table. The focus and the attention of the collaborative work may shift and change over time depending on, you know, the resolution that you get on one part of the problem versus, you know, another part popping up. We’ve also seen that collaborations sometimes take a longer time coming to agreement on things like sustainability and so part of our approach in this is to say to a collaboration, “Hey, as you’re shifting and changing over time, there might be elements that you let go, and other ones, other parts of your collaborative that you might want to sustain.” So not everything has to be sustained over the longer period of time.

There can be this more fluid fluctuation because even as the collaborative begins to, you know, try to influence community change, the community starts to shift and change around it. So all of those things really influenced the writing of this guide, but also our thinking around this guide. So, Mike, you might have some stuff to add here.

Mike Des Jardins: Well, yeah, to your point, a number of your points actually, Liz, the way I found it useful to look at it with a tree analogy. If you think of the trunk of a tree as the collaboration, then you think of the trees, sorry, the leaves and the branches that stem off of that trunk as the specific programs, projects, activities, and even people that grow out of that collaboration, then if you think of the root system, those are the sustainability and resilience factors and the elements that collectively support and feed the collaboration. So really, it’s the foundation for the trunk, which is the collaboration. It’s easy to become hyper focused on sustaining the leaves and branches when we do this kind of work, but there’s great value in focusing effort on sustaining the trunk so that the collaborative thrives regardless of which branches and leaves are growing at any time.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: That’s super helpful. Thank you. Really interesting, Liz, and I love that analogy, Mike. I hadn’t thought about the sustainability resilience factors as those roots and the root system. That’s great.

Let’s talk about some of the roots, some of the factors. Liz, as you mentioned, the guide is one of Tamarack’s classic 10 Guides organized in tens, and you talk about 10 really good sustainability factors, and you do organize them into four buckets. So you have people factors, resource factors, process factors, and impact factors. So let’s just talk about those one at a time to hear a little bit more about each of them.

The first one you all talk about in the guide is the people factors that contribute to sustainability. So could you tell us more about that?

Liz Weaver: Yeah, you know, the people factor is, I think, a really important bucket of factors, and the very first people factor that we lift up is an equity approach to this work. So really understanding if we are trying to move forward on a complex social issue in our communities, who will be impacted most directly and most significantly by that which we are aiming to influence and change.

Equity for us at Tamarack is about the inclusion of many voices but centered in the voice of people with lived in living experience, those people that are impacted by the things that we’re trying to change because they really understand the complexity of the issues, they’re navigating it in ways that those of us that are providing services don’t necessarily understand as deeply or aren’t as impacted by. So equity, for us really starts to disaggregate some of the data and really understand the root causes and the impact so I think equity is a critical people factor. And affiliated with that are the people around the table that you have, and so how do you create strong and meaningful relationships amongst the partners that you are engaging around the table.

One of the things that we often hear at Tamarack is we’ve got buy-in but we don’t necessarily have ownership. And so how do we really get people to say, OK, so if I’m part of this process, I need to be equally part of understanding how I contribute to the problem and how I can contribute my organization, my network, my connections, how we can contribute to the solution. People is a really critical factor and there are three elements that tie right into people, three factors that tie into this people part of the sustainability guide.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Great. Thank you. So embedding equity connections between the partners, broad community engagement, all are essential. Doing those well contributes to the sustainability of the initiative. Thank you, yes.

So, the second one is bucketed as resource factors so tell us about the resource factors which I think is sometimes the first thing people think about and so I’m glad you started with people but let’s now talk about some of those resource factors.

Liz Weaver: Yeah, so resources again are tied to people but also to financial resources. You know, this was a big aha moment from the collective impact framework. When the collective impact framework was first launched in 2011 which is a long time ago now, there were the preconditions of collective impact, and one of the preconditions was adequate human and financial resources, right? And so if you think about your work, your collaborative work as happening over time, do we have the right people around the table, the right human resources, and do we also have the right financial resources in order to achieve what we hope to achieve in the timeframe that our collaboration is underway, and so that kind of idea of looking at both human and financial resources and trying to understand what it will take to achieve what you’ve agreed that you’re going to achieve together, having a solid conversation about that really is an important sustainability factor.

And then I think the other one that’s linked to resources is the invitation that we should always be making to our partners and to the community to be able to contribute in meaningful ways to achieving the solutions. It might be our philanthropic partners. It might be our government partners. It might be our organizational partners. It might be the individuals with lived and living experience. How can they contribute to the change that we’re seeking together, and what are the tangible things that they might be able to contribute, that they can shift their work five of 15 percent slightly to really help the collective work advance more meaningfully?

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Thank you, Liz, and one of the pieces of the guide that you have in a separate section are actually 10 ideas for funders so I appreciate you naming it resources doesn’t only mean funders but you do recognize the importance that funders do play.

So, Mike, could you tell us a little bit more about some of those ideas for funders that you speak directly to in the guide?

Mike Des Jardins: Yeah, so we were really lucky to have funders around the advisory committee with us to share their perspective on how funding does need to change to support collaboratives in being sustainable in their work. Through that conversation we developed 10 recommendations, and they are detailed in the guide but we thought maybe we could share a couple of them.

So designing funding that is flexible, multiyear, encourages equity and is multisectoral participation in focus, that it funds the infrastructure and backbone of collective collaborative action, that it engages in trust-based philanthropy. This is becoming very common now and is all about the relationship and the journey together. We’re not doing this work in silos. Our funders need to come along with us on the journey, and then provide funding to support field catalysts.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: That’s great. Can you say a little bit more about what field catalysts are for folks that might not know that term?

Liz Weaver: Yeah, I’m happy to jump in here. So at Tamarack we’ve been thinking a lot about field catalysts. Just like the Collective Impact Forum is trying to catalyze the field of practitioners who are moving forward in collective impact, so you guys act very much as a field catalyst as do we at Tamarack.

So a field catalyst has four core parts to their work. They first look at the system and they say, hey, system, what are you calling for, and the system might say, hey, I’m calling for people to think about ending poverty or I’m calling for system to improve kindergarten readiness for example. So the system calls for something, then the field catalyst convenes a bunch of partners to say, hey, are you all interested? And it could be at a local community level. It could be at a statewide level. It could be at a pan-Canadian or pan-U.S. level so you convene a bunch of partners and you say, hey, the system seems to be calling for this, are we interested in working collaboratively together? Those partners say yes, most of them say yes, and then the field catalyst supports them coming together, making sense of everything but as these partners are coming together, the field catalyst starts to document and provide resources much like the Collective Impact Forum provides podcasts and resources and a website and convenes them together in workshops but it also starts to look at the patterns of the partners, and once it starts to see the patterns that are emerging, it brings it back to the system or it enables the partners to bring their learning up to the system so that the system can be influenced.

So it’s a little bit like a circular approach, this field catalyzing, and much like there’s a backbone infrastructure in collective impact work, the field catalyst acts as a backbone but it’s a backbone between trying to understand where the system is at and what the system needs and the partners, where the partners are at and what the partners need, and how the partners are changing. So it’s kind of this really cool circular approach to really shifting systems.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Thank you. That’s helpful, and so the shout-out or the call-out to funders is to, yes, a hundred percent invest in the local collaborative infrastructure and also maybe with the scale, help scale that change and to enable—grease the wheels for local change, support field catalysts in their role as well. That’s awesome.

I will also just mention that Liz and colleagues wrote a great piece on field catalysts a year and a half or so ago that we can put a link to in the show notes in case folks are interested in learning more. So we’ve gone down the hole of resources a little bit. Thank you, Mike and Liz, for doing that.

I’m going to take us back to the third of four sustainability factors, and the third one that you all talk about in the guide is process. So tell me more about the factors around process.

Liz Weaver: Yeah, thanks, Jen. This is really important and we sometimes jump over process and we focus on resources and on impact but process is really critical in this because process brings other things magically into the collaboration work that we’re engaged in and so process is—the factors that are specifically linked to process is this idea of having a compelling case, right? So it not only has to resonate with people around the collaboration table but it should resonate more broadly with your community and your funding partners and other partners that you are hoping to bring to this work.

The second one is really about the urgency that that community sees in responding to the issue, and those issues that have some of that resonance and that urgency with their community actually are ones where people will be attracted, right? People and resources will be attracted, and sometimes that’s a little bit more challenging for some issues, and so what you want to do when you’re thinking about urgency is really look at what your community is talking about and how your issue connects to the broader conversations that are happening in your community, and how your collaboration might respond to some of those broader issues that are being raised.

And then finally, the third factor in this cluster is really around sense-making and learning, right? So we talked a little bit earlier in the podcast about even as you begin to intervene in your community, your community starts changing. You know, people come and people go, and things shift and change. Who could have expected we would be through three years of COVID when we thought, you know, at the beginning it was only going to be a mild flu? There are things about trying to continually look at, OK, so we tried this, it had this kind of impact, what happens if we scale it up or we scale it down, right? So that sense-making and learning is a really critical factor.

And process is really about being in real-time conversation with what’s happening in your community and also always looking for other ways to attract in more human and financial resources that exist in your community or exist at different scales in different places.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Great. Thank you, and I think it’s closely tied to number four, the fourth factor, which are the impact factors. Let’s go there now to the four—excuse me, the three impact factors.

Liz Weaver: Yeah, they say that nothing breeds success like success, and so I think that’s so critical in this work. This work sometimes feels like it’s happening over a long period of time but there are short-term successes that your collaboration might be experiencing, medium-term successes, and longer-term successes, and so the factors that are related to impact are really making progress on the collaboration and understanding the outcomes that you’re achieving.

So at different stages in your collaborative process, you want to be able to say, well, what will success look like for us in the next year, in the next two years, right? And then really be able to communicate them. You might identify, you know, five or 10 success factors, and you want to be able to communicate to people the progress that you’re making, whether they are funders or other people in the community or your community as a whole.

So this is about not only making the progress, understanding the progress, but intentionally identifying how you communicate out the progress that you’re making and the impact that you’re making, and doing that in a way that really continues to create the story of the collaboration.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Yes, and I think success breeds success is such a good way to shorthand the nuance in all those reflections there, Liz, so thank you for starting with that.

So we talked about the people, resource, process, and impact factors—those four factors, and what you do in the guide then is you take us through some examples, some case studies which really bring to life the factors that you outline in the guide, and so we would love to hear you animate a couple of those examples for the listeners.

Mike Des Jardins: So we spoke to 10 collaborations across Canada to learn from and include their stories in the 10 Guide. What we found was each approached sustainability uniquely differently based on their community’s needs and advancing their compelling case. So they are very unique and I invite folks to download the guide and read the stories in detail because there are nuances between each of those stories that I just can’t share in this short amount of time but certainly the stories help bring the theory to life, and so we think that they’re really important in sort of making the concepts shine from the guide.

So I’ll touch on three quick examples, and then maybe I’ll share some things that emerged from those three examples as a collective.

The first one would be Communities Building Youth Futures Yukon. They are a collaboration using the collective impact approach to cultivate a sense of belonging for youth in the Yukon territory, and also improve future outcomes for youth in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. So what I found in talking to them, their sustainability strength was that they’re very process oriented. They support and nurture youth leadership so that no matter the focus of the work that they take on, youth are sustained at the center to inform and guide everything that they’re doing so that is their definition of sustainability.

Another example is Food First NL. It’s a collaboration working with communities in Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure everyone has access to affordable, healthy, and culturally appropriate food since 1998. I found that their sustainability strength was that they’re building capacity across all levels so individuals, local communities and systems, by scaling out, up, and deep to create that sustainability. They scale up through advocacy work in shifting systems that impact food security which in turn impacts laws and policy. They scale deep through partnership development and supporting innovation through social enterprise which impacts cultural roots. They scale out to build sustainability and capacity and grow the food security movement in local communities across the province.

And then the third example—this one’s always really interesting for me to share because it kind of turns sustainability on its head from what we’re used to thinking about it. We tend to think of sustainability as always doing the same thing and going forward with that plan but sometimes it means changing things up, and so Calgary Reads is a collaboration that grew over 20 years to support the community’s need to improve early literacy with the goal that all children in Calgary and across Alberta would become joyful, confident readers. So their strength is that they look at sustainability differently, and they took risks to refocus their collaborative efforts by strategically imploding their structure.

So what they had found that in over the 20 years, they had developed all these wonderful programs that were meeting the needs of community but it created limitations for them to reach their end goal, and so they decided, OK, those programs are all wonderful, we will continue to operate them. We’ll have our partners pick up that work but now as a collaborative, we’re going to refocus the work that we’re going to do. So they’ve embraced adaptability and flexibility, and they recognize that sustainability isn’t always about maintaining that status quo or scaling existing collaborative work but that sometimes it means returning the core values of a collaboration and taking new paths that better align with them.

So out of those three stories, and the rest of the 10 that you will find in the 10 Guide, I’ve pulled out some commonalities that we found.

So equity is at the center of successfully sustained collaborations, who the collaborative effort supports, who it involves and how, authentically and with shared power. I found that collective impact conditions lend themselves to greater sustainability and resilience, so the conditions just naturally reinforce sustainability. These groups tend to capitalize on opportunities to strengthen their collaboration and break down silos to work collectively on a shared agenda. They tend to be values driven and purpose focused. That’s something around resiliency that we’ll get into for the second podcast but it is definitely something that runs across all the stories. Always thinking ahead to next steps of their collaborative effort, so doing that ongoing planning, recognizing that, you know, sustainability planning isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing. It has to be ongoing and done right from the beginning. They see sustainability from an optimistic and abundance mindset rather than a scarcity and competition one. They seek out and secure diverse funding that is longer term and flexible, and they work very hard at building relationships with funders to establish trust.

And one of the most important things that Liz mentioned already is recognizing that not everything needs to be sustained, knowing when something has run its course or where pieces of the work like Calgary Reads can be taken over by others in the community. They value and cultivate partnerships and strong community involvement and investment. And here’s the last one that I think is really important is they recognize that they’re not perfect at planning for sustainability, and that there are areas, so the factors and elements we’ve been discussing that they need to put effort into supporting, and so one that I kept hearing often was around succession planning for staffing and leadership. So the reality is none of us are doing this perfectly and there’s always something that needs our attention, and so recognizing that we have to put effort into things is a good start.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Yeah, I can’t wait to learn more about all of those examples, Mike. They are so illustrative and really interesting lenses on the sustainability question.

You mentioned the piece around Calgary Reads that I’m curious to go a little bit deeper on, and that is thinking about not assuming that everything in the collaborative needs to be sustained, and you put a question around this in the guide around starting by thinking about is it important to sustain the collaborative, and if so, is it all of the collaborative or pieces of the collaborative. Can you talk a little bit more about that consideration almost as a starting point? How do we think about what to sustain or if to sustain?

Mike Des Jardins: Well, I think you have to start with looking at what is your goal. Once you have a sense of what your purpose is, you can pull in all those factors we’ve talked about, people and resources. You can draw those in once you know exactly what you’re doing.

So in the example of Calgary Reads, if the goal has changed from how it was articulated 20 years ago, maybe different people need to be around the table. Maybe some of the activities that they’re doing are sustained on their own now and there needs to be a different focus to advance sort of the movement, and I think that’s the part that really came across from Calgary Reads is it was not just programming that was being created for the community, it was creating a movement for early literacy development, and so if the programming was meeting its needs but the movement wasn’t moving forward, that’s how they have to realign or reimagine what resources and people they need around the table to make that happen.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: Liz, do you want to add to that a little bit?

Liz Weaver: Yeah, I think the Calgary Reads story is a really good one. I think sometimes we just make this assumption that things need to be sustained forever, and maybe they don’t. Maybe there are elements of it that you in your collaboration that you think, yeah, we haven’t quite completed that work so we’ll carry that work forward but you also want to think about what can we let go, right? What are the pieces of the work that are no longer relevant to us or might be taken up by someone else in the community?

Over the course of the 20 years that has been around, there are some communities where the energy in the community just dissipated for that work, right? And so there was this—they’ve been working on poverty and there was lots of good things that had happened but then for some reason, funding went away or people changed or something else happened in the community, and so that community then went through a process about, you know, reflecting on what had happened in the past and what was the next step for them, and sometimes communities would pick it up again five years later or something else would emerge that was appropriate for that next phase of this work.

What we’ve seen in lots of communities and I think one of the big reasons for this guide is that sometimes communities and collaborations end with a whimper and not that purposeful reflection, and so part of this guide around sustainability is to enable collaborative tables to have that purposeful conversation, to ask themselves, you know, is this work still important and relevant to our community, and to what degree? Do we have the energy to keep it moving forward or to what degree do we need to bring some other people around the table and some other resources or is it time now to let some things go, to end this work, and hope for things maybe in the future to emerge or to allow the space for some other focus to emerge in the community, and I think it’s a healthy conversation for a community.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: I think, Liz, that’s great advice for us to wrap on today but before we do, is there anything else that you all would like to share on the topic of sustainability for today?

Liz Weaver: The only thing that I would say is that this is not the end of this conversation. This is the beginning of this conversation. We would welcome, for those of you that are listening to the podcast, if you have any ideas, if you—parts of the guide resonate with you or other parts of the guide don’t resonate with you, please let us know because we see this as a living document, as a way of kind of changing the conversation around sustainability, enriching that conversation, and we welcome all thoughts, positive, negative, somewhere in the middle. Mike, anything from you?

Mike Des Jardins: No, you hit it right on the head, Liz, great.

Jennifer Splansky Juster: With that you are living and breathing your field catalyst role beautifully so thank you for that. Mike and Liz, thank you not only for your time today and for putting together the guide but for being wonderful partners to the Collective Impact Forum now and for many years so thank you so much, and we look forward to part two of our conversation.

Mike Des Jardins: It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for having us.

Liz Weaver: Thanks so much, Jen.


And this closes out this episode of the Collective Impact Forum podcast. If you are interested in learning more about what was discussed, you can find links to resources in the footnotes for this episode, including a link to “10: A Guide for Building a Sustainable and Resilient Collaboration,” which is free to download from the Tamarack Institute. And also, please stay tuned for our next episode that will continue the conversation with Liz and Mike.

We would like to acknowledge that this episode was produced and edited on the unceded, traditional lands of the Coast Salish people, including the Duwamish, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Muckleshoot tribes. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the past, present, and futures of these tribes.

The Intro music for this episode was composed by Rafael Krux and our outro music is composed by Kevin Macleod.

And for those interested in more upcoming learning events, registration is closing soon for our virtual Collective Impact Action Summit that will be held on April 25-27, 2023. The Action Summit is our biggest learning event of the year, featuring over 40 online sessions that will share cutting-edge thinking and lessons learned about how collaboration can help address the complex issues we are facing.


And a big plus for being virtual is that we’re recording all the sessions and sharing those recordings with attendees after, so you’ll be able to plan a schedule that fits best with you, and watch other sessions later.

This is Tracy Timmons-Gray, Associate Director here at the Collective Impact Forum, and your podcast host. I want to say thank you so much for listening, and we look forward to connecting with you more in our next episode. Until next time, we hope you are safe and well.


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