One of the things I struggle with most as a development practitioner is conveying what I do. My colleague sent me an article the other day that I thought was easy to relate to and potentially appealing to anybody who cares about social change. This article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review is titled Collective Impact, and it discusses how, “Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.” You can find the article here, but in the meantime, I’d like to just highlight one excerpt that I found particularly intriguing:

the nonprofit sector most frequently operates using an approach that we call isolated impact. It is an approach oriented toward finding and funding a solution embodied within a single organization, combined with the hope that the most effective organizations will grow or replicate to extend their impact more widely. Funders search for more effective interventions as if there were a cure for failing schools that only needs to be discovered, in the way that medical cures are discovered in laboratories. As a result of this process, nearly 1.4 million nonprofits try to invent independent solutions to major social problems, often working at odds with each other and exponentially increasing the perceived resources required to make meaningful progress.

I couldn’t agree more. At the end of the day the issues that social change organizations aim to address are so complex that it is nearly impossible to tackle on your own. The article goes on to talk about the importance of intersectoral collaboration, which I agree with, but I just hope they are referring to all key actors within a sector, such as community members, schools and teachers, and local government representatives, and not just other “organizations” that think they know what they are doing. ~Adam

Click here if you still haven’t read the article!



1 reply
  1. Cheryl
    Cheryl says:

    I think there are many funders out there that want to hear solutions that include cross-collaboration. However, it’s a time-consuming venture that involves relationship building, common goal alignment, and trust building. Costs associated with this? Personnel. This is the challenge. There is a very limited amount of funders that want to fund personnel-related costs.

    So here’s where development professionals are often left – to create programs that involve high programmatic material costs to justify personnel expenses. We’re left with hoping to accomplish cross-collaboration as a side-venture when it ought to be a major focus of our endeavors.


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