Caroline Bonesky on Collective Impact

I have been spending a lot of time on promoting the idea of Collective Impact as a way to work collaboratively with other organizations to address those persistent social problems that greatly impact our ability to accomplish our mission.

Collective impact is a process rather than a thing, and it’s rooted in the idea that we all must be working on a defined common goal, through shared measurements, shared resources and integrated planning and delivery to move the dial on large and complex issues like poverty, obesity in children, educational outcomes and neighbourhood revitalization.

The integral component of this process is that individual organizations, businesses, municipalities, funders and governments leave their organizational egos at the door and work in the best interest of the common goal. That is an easy thing to say and promote but can be much more difficult to implement.

We have taken the first steps by hosting two different forums in late March. One was in conjunction with The Bloom Group and posAbilities. It was a one day event which brought together leaders of provincial ministries, municipalities, health authorities, BC Housing, not for profit organizations and foundations to expose them to the concepts of collective impact, highlight where the process is having tangible results and talk about what problems could be tackled with this process.

Early areas of interest identified during that one day session included child poverty, changing outcomes for youth leaving care, mental health and addictions issues in the Vancouver downtown eastside and implementation of goals for the city of Vancouver Healthy City Strategy.

The second forum was held with a selected group of 25 individuals who are interested in changing the outcomes for youth leaving the care of the government. This was hosted in conjunction with MCFD, StreetoHome, Vancouver Foundation and the BC Federation of Community Social Services. It was an excellent day as the conversation became real very quickly and participants from health, education, not for profit providers, youth and ministries were all encouraged by the possibilities that a joint effort could bring.

In the middle of those two events was a three day conference on being a backbone organization for collective impact, which we had eight staff attend. With over 220 participants, there was more energy and interest in the application of this model in B.C. Family Services was also a supporter of that conference put on by Tamarack Institute.

This means that our vision for 2020, where we are working to impact the fundamental issues in our communities which impact our clients, is becoming a bit more real. There is a huge amount of work ahead as we move from exposing people to an idea to engaging in a focused discussion about how to resource and implement a change plan.

The hope is in the consistency of the message we are hearing – that the status quo isn’t good enough – we want something better for our communities and no one alone can create the momentum and energy we will need to make a substantial difference.