Trying to do more with less?  Is your organization collaborating with others? Collaborating across multiple sectors?Org Strat

You’re not alone.  And the struggle is so real.

Luckily there are a number of folks who are way smarter, have thought much longer, put together some models, talked to a lot of other people to get some data on their models, and have shared what they have found.

Researchers at the Stanford Social Innovation Review use the term  “collective impact” to refer to the highly structured collaborative efforts that occur on a large-scale to make long lasting social change.  Their suggestions make for a useful collaborative guide for both large and small-scale collaborations

Collective impact, has three areas of focus: preconditions; methods to maintain and sustain; and ways to evaluate progress or impact.   Each area, as outlined by the Standford Social Innovation Review contributors, Hanleybrown, Kania, & Kramer possesses its own recipe for success.  And each area is best to have in place and settled to queue you up for the next.

As I see it, collaboration or collective impact is a three-course meal consisting of delightful aperitifs & hors d’oeurves, a substantial entrée, and a thoughtful dessert.

In this article, we present the aperitifs & hors d’oeurves.  Use this appetizer to bring people together and whet the appetite.

For an award winning start that will effortlessly lead guests to the main course, the following ingredients are suggested:

Influential champion(s).  This person (or people) has enough credibility and influence to get people moving.  They are connected to high level EDs, CEOs, CFOs, COOs, board folks, and the like. And have staying power to maintain or fuel momentum throughout the duration of the project.  Further, the evidence suggest a specific type of leadership style that tastefully and intentionally promotes shared meaning, vision, and commitment across the multiple actors and organizations.

Adequate financial support (very specific to large scale projects).  The dough. The funds. The money. For years. According to our friends at the Stanford Social Review, large scale collaborations should aim for two to three years of financial support. You may have lost your appetite.  But hold on.  Check out this site for possible funding options.  And collaboration across the local donor and grant market appears to be increasing.

Sense of urgency.  We’ve arrived.  Collaboration is the new black.  If you haven’t heard of collaboration within the past few years as it relates to social enterprises, nonprofits, the public sector, organizational development, strategy, then I am willing to wager that you have been tucked away in the far unreachable corners of somewhere.  Coming together, identifying and delineating the strengths of organizations with an eye towards avoiding duplication of services, promoting collective impact, shared spaces, and sustainability and not simply a trend but a fad that is bearing fruit with increased ability to meet agency outcomes and increase impact.

As you prepare your aperitifs and hors d’oeuvres, questions to ask yourself are (preconditions assessment):

The Champion

Is this person persuasive and trusted among many?

Is this person well connected?

Does this person have staying power?

The Funds

Who could research and write grants?

Who knows of or has access to a strong, local donor base?

Have you thought about using collaboration or collective impact as a means to get funding from big and small donors?

The Urgency

Are people talking about the type of work you do?

Are there media images or news stories about what you are working on?

Could you pair with an agency that is similar or complimentary work that may have established urgency already?


Stay tuned for the main course in the coming weeks.

This blog is part of a series providing information and tools emerging from the organization development field.  We are excited to offer these best practices for how your manage your space. Read the previous series posts:

Organization Development: It’s a thing…A pretty cool thing

3 Go-Tos for Building Rapport and Organizational Trust

Objectives, Relationships, and Ruptures in the Workplace