Thursday, June 28, 2012

Application of Collective Impact philosophy

The value and application of a 'Collective Impact' philosophy (or 'theory') was reinforced at the recent Emerging Leaders for Social Change (ELSC) strategy session I attended.  It was probably the single biggest take away, and since then examples keep popping up where it is (could be) relevant.

Collective Impact is a theory for action articulated by some fine people at FSG, which you can read all about in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  (I think 'theory' is their term, I think about it as a 'philosophy'.)

Think about COAG (Council of Australian Governments) - a bunch of ministers from states, territories and the fed sit around in committees and work out national approaches to things within the jurisdiction of the states (mostly).  Just getting all these players to the table is a minor victory.  But progressing from this starting point to collectively addressing an issue is well beyond simply getting parties to a table to talk.  I don't know how COAG functions these days, but all I have seen is still relatively immature, in Collective Impact terms.  Some great strides, but still a long way from potential.  Things like shared policy statements, agreements on goals etc., and some examples of coordinated action (in this last case, usually because the Commonwealth is forcing it).

In these terms, collective action is achieved by:
  • initiating engagement
  • organising participants
  • sustaining action
Unfortunately, government is designed particularly well to undermine a progression like this.  The impact of elections on sustaining action is particularly challenging.  I wonder whether there is leadership and an appropriately well informed approach to making COAG more effective (Collective Impact or not)...?

There's lots of other examples, particularly in government (with committees and representative bodies abounding), where similar questions can be asked.  International collective bodies like the UN would probably be great case studies - but I don't know enough to comment. It would be great for someone with a solid understanding of Collective Impact and some of these major bodies to perform some critical analysis as case studies (*nudge* FSG).

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