Kate2Author: Kate Sunners


One step up from collaboration, this new framework is uniting institutions towards common outcomes.


So many social problems are multi-faceted, deep rooted, co-constitutive and complex, making themseem completely impossible to solve. But can collaboration across all sectors of society help to create big positive impacts that begin to address social problems previously seen as ‘intractable’ (iepoverty, hunger, crime and social conflict etc.)?connectedsm


It’s an interesting question, and one which the Federal Government seems to be interested in exploring, given their hat tip to social innovation and private sector involvement in social issues with the ‘Try, Test Learn Fund’ in the 2016-17 budget. And indeed in several Australian states, Social Benefit Bonds may already be paving the way for more collaborative approaches to social problems, creating relationships between private investors, philanthropists, banks and nonprofits


One step beyond collaboration, and growing in popularity as an approach to tackling big social issues, is collective impact: a collaboration framework which sees cross-sectoral engagement, sharing of evaluation results, replicability of programs, and mutually reinforcing and coordinated activities (https://collectiveimpactaustralia.com/). 


Says Collaboration For Impact: “The power of collective action comes not from the sheer number of participants or the uniformity of their efforts, but from the coordination of their differentiated activities through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.”


Having a shared action plan towards common outcomes might reduce the pressure on individual organisations, and perhaps on nonprofits alone to tackle social problems. It’s an unreasonable expectation that one organisation alone can solve something as catastrophic as poverty for instance. 


Working with a Collective Impact Framework also addresses the issue of duplication of programs, and working in silos – two things that have been big on the Government funding ‘no-no’ list for some time now. 


The Collective Impact approach has been undertaken by a number of groups around Australia, and not only by organisations like United Way and Benevolent Society, but also by philanthropic funders like the ten20 Foundationand the Westpac Foundation, as well as Governments (the Government of South Australia’s 90-Day Projects are a good example). There are also several organisations around Australia who work to facilitate and educate on collective impact frameworks, including Together SACollaboration for Impact, and the Centre for Social Impact.


Recently, a Collective Impact framework has been successfully set up in a number of small, disadvantaged towns, both of which are aimingfor brighter futures for local children and youthThe Hive at Mt Druitt (NSW), the Education Benalla Program (VIC), and winner of The Search fundingBurnie Works (TAS) have been blazing a trail setting up their collaboration structures, governance groups and process for change