Collective Impact with Equity at the Core

Collective impact as a strategy to address community challenges has generated a great deal of attention, growing in scale and number globally. It’s attractive, providing social sector organizations opportunities to draw on each participating organization’s unique strengths and resources to tackle our communities’ most complex social issues. Based on Measurement Resources Company’s (MRC) research and observation, many collective impact initiatives are falling short of their full social impact potential, due to their limited focus on equity. Lasting change requires intentional efforts to uproot traditional, hierarchical relationships with power structures.

How Culture and Measurement Factor into Equitable Outcomes

High-performing collective impact initiatives define success by achieving equitable outcomes. The ideal state is that communities no longer see disparities in outcomes based on race and gender, and the organizations are working toward improving the outcomes for all groups. In order to achieve success, collective impact initiatives need to do things different in terms of who is invited to the problem-solving table and how data and measures are used. Here are the best practices strategies successful collective impact initiatives are doing to achieve equitable outcomes.

1. Initiating client-centric decision-making. From a cultural standpoint, collective impact initiatives operating from a more traditional framework (without equity at the core) become apparent when you begin to examine seemingly trivial decisions, such as where and when meetings take place. Who isn’t able to be at the table? The decision-making process of the collaborative is also revealing. Does a funder have more “say” in the decisions that are being made? Do the voices of smaller participating organizations go unheard? For collaboratives to successfully implement equitable, client-centric initiatives, it is important to consider, establish and document some straightforward ground rules.

2. Openness to shared data at the individual level. It is imperative that all participating organizations broaden their views around data collection in ways that will best serve the initiative’s goals and align their collection and reporting efforts to advance the work of the collaborative—in a way that will achieve equitable impact. While this may sound obvious, it can be difficult in practice. Do you report your findings in aggregate by percentages, or do you segment the data out by demographics? Do the organizations track various segments of the population you are serving using the same criteria? How do you centralize, synthesize, and analyze all of this data?

Opportunities to Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about some key strategies for ensuring that your collective impact initiative is positioned to successful close key racial and gender disparities, Measurement Resources is offering a free webinar on Wednesday, October 9, 2019, from 1:00 – 2:00 pm (Eastern Time). During this webinar, we will provide an overview of our approach to data collection, and how to identify and understand disparities among various populations you serve, and more importantly, how those disparities create barriers to engagement, access and ultimately, social impact outcomes.

Additionally, here are a few resources that delve into this topic in more detail:

Measurement Resources’ evaluators lend their expertise to many collective impact initiatives. By advocating for an equity-centered approach, MRC helps participating organizations better define and collect both qualitative and quantitative data, so that the collaborative can glean insights from the analysis and identify opportunities for improved outcomes. If your collective impact project is in need of assistance in these areas, please contact us today.