Collective Impact and the Danger of Drift

Let’s get real. Collective Impact partnerships are really hard.

You believe a better world is possible for those you serve, and you’re on a mission to solve complex problems for your community. But a single organization, no matter how courageous and well-funded, can only do so much.

The Collective Impact model is a framework for authentic partnerships that go deeper than traditional collaboration. Collective Impacts include a variety of sectors and stakeholders—such as nonprofits, grant makers, local government, businesses, and community members. And increasingly, collaboration is necessary for funding and opportunity.

Collective Impact may be a powerful tool to advance your mission, but let’s get real. Making it work is really hard. Executing these partnerships successfully brings new challenges for community heroes like you. You may be encountering the following, to just name a few.

Strategy Drift

Your Collective Impact partnership may start off with clear strategy. But far too often it gets lost in execution. Too often, Collective Impact partners fail to hold each other accountable for follow through of agreed upon action, or making adjustments without partner input, leading to drift from the group strategy.

In a successful collective partnership, tough choices and conversations must be had. Pleasing organizational and individual interests must not be put before the collective’s strategic interest and plan.

Mission Drift

Each organization in a Collective Impact effort, while concerned about solving one complex community problem together, has it’s own mission. It’s reason for existing may include the collective problem to be solved, but is not limited to that.

For example, an organization may be part of a collective addressing homelessness, but its its own context is serving domestic violence victims. Its mandate is to advocate and provide services for their stakeholders, in addition to affordable housing. The Collective Impact partners may prioritize or impose actions that have potential to distract a participant from its stated mission.

Leaders of participant organizations must have filters in place for evaluating if new programs or methods are serve it’s own mission. Otherwise, it may launch new services beyond its scope and capacity, or neglect it’s true mandate.

Values Drift

Organizations not only have a mission, but core values. These values are reflected not only in the people they serve, but how they serve them. For example, if your organizational values extend from a mission of Christian faith, the collective may not share that. The collective may commit to strategies that challenge those values, perhaps even requiring them in order to collectively qualify for grants. It becomes easy to justify one compromise at a time for the sake of the collective agenda. Ultimately, the organization abandons it’s values and even it’s stated mission.

Addressing this potential at the outset of establishing the collective is imperative for success. Any strategy must provide equally for the respect, input, and boundaries of each participant. As the collective moves forward, continuous transparency and accountability are imperative.

You Can Do This

You don’t have to wrestle with the challenges of Collective Impact alone. There are others navigating the same challenges in pursuit of the greatest good. If you’re considering, committed to, or muddled in a Collective Impact initiative, there is an opportunity for you to connect with them for solutions.

The Conquering the Collaborative Conundrum mastermind coaching series goes deeper than teaching the concepts of Collective Impact. It can help you to address the specific challenges your organization is wrestling with as you enter or navigate a Collective Impact partnership. Register today and lead the way for your organization and community to make possible the better world you envision for those you serve.

Published by Jeannette Scott

Missional communication coach, author, minister, daughter of God. My life mission is to live with passion for Christ, his servants, and his great commission. If you like hanging out in Lancaster County bookstores, quilt shops, coffee shops, or dog parks, we may have already met!

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