Earlier this month, I tweeted the following quote from Roberts Enterprise Development Fund’s article, Impact: Beyond Individual to Collective:
…if we believe our best work is done in concert with others in a field, system or network, to effect lasting, positive change; we will need to go beyond measuring individual impact toward understanding our collective impact.
Sexual and domestic violence prevention strategies often focus on the individual. When we discuss the spectrum of prevention, we note that our prevent efforts tend to be limited to the first three levels. When we look at the social ecological model, we encourage folks to develop community and societal-level strategies in addition to strategies aimed at changing individual knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and skills. Individual-level strategies cannot stand alone. We are, after all, trying to change cultures, communities, and environments to support healthy norms and behaviors.
I know we all value and desire collective impact, but I wonder if we understand how to create it, let alone measure it. Luckily, with the rise of social enterprise, there are a lot of resources out there to help. For example, The Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article at the end of last year describing five conditions their research found to be typical of successful collective impact initiatives:
- Common Agenda
- Shared Measurement Systems
- Mutually Reinforcing Activities
- Continuous Communication
- Backbone Support Organizations
Looking at these conditions, I am struck by just how acutely they reflect the challenges, opportunities, and future direction of sexual and domestic violence prevention work. In my experience, the first condition, a common agenda, is the strongest barrier to collective impact. That one condition determines the success of the four following it. Regarding a common agenda, the authors state that, “Every participant need not agree with every other participant on all dimensions of the problem.” This reminds me of hearing Lydia Guy talk about facilitating community organization efforts. We have to be able to let go of being right and instead focus on a collective vision for a violence-free community.
I encourage you to read the article and think about how these conditions apply to your work. Then, explore PreventConnect resources that help you address each one of these conditions. Consider attending the upcoming web conference about developing shared goals, complete an eLearning unit on coordinating sexual and domestic violence prevention efforts, explore the wiki evaluation resources, and listen to a podcast about a program with mutually reinforcing activities. While the language coming from social entrepreneurship research may be different, the goal is the same – widespread, effective, cultural change. That’s our common agenda.