When my siblings and I got in trouble as kids, we were plopped down on a couch and lectured about how why we were headed for a life behind bars if we didn’t change our nefarious ways. Then we were told to kiss, make up and go play together nicely. We’d smile; give fake hugs then resume pummeling each other while Mom wasn’t looking. Some folks view collaboration like this.

Collaboration is a popular buzzword that is often used loosely. While it is the ideal principle of getting great things done, there is a difference between saying that you play together as a team and actually playing together as a team.

Now, there is a new model of collaboration on steroids; Collective Impact. The was created by Stanford University after researchers tried to understand what organizations were actually moving the needle on various social problems. They determined that “large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.” In other words, folks tend to work in silos doing their own thing and not much gets accomplished to move the needle.

Collective Impact differs because of these five things: (you can see more detail here)

Common Agenda

Shared Measurements

Mutually reinforcing activity

Continuous communication

Backbone organization

While collaboration is one of those loosely defined terms that are as hard to nail down as trying to eat peas with a butter-knife, Collective Impact sharpens the focus. The idea of Collective Impact was originally focused on nonprofits, but corporations are adapting the model to fit their needs.


Collective Impact is best illustrated in one of my favorite African proverbs; If you want to run fast, run by yourself; if you want to run far, run with others.


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