As faculty have begun to brainstorm about projects to submit to the National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES solicitation, questions have arisen about what is meant by the term “Collective Impact.”
EDIT: NSF has posted a webinar recording. Collective Impact is explained in the second presentation.
Collective Impact comes out of the world of philanthropy, where foundations and wealthy donors have become increasingly concerned about using their money strategically. Strategic Philanthropy is focused on measurable and scalable outcomes. Many philanthropists are requiring collaboration in order to assure that their dollars achieve maximum impact. The idea is that complex social problems cannot be solved by a single organization or even a single sector (nonprofit, industry, government, higher education) alone. Funders see themselves as catalysts for achieving ambitious and sustainable change. This appears to be the first time that the National Science Foundation has explicitly used the term in a solicitation, though it has become popular in other government agencies.
The term “Collective Impact” was popularized by the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011 and has become widely accepted in philanthropic circles. While NSF does not require preliminary proposals to employ a Collective Impact approach, applicants will who become familiar with the vocabulary and accepted frameworks of CI will likely be more successful.
The NSF solicitation cites the five elements of Collective Impact approaches identified in the 2011 SSIR article:
Collaborative alliances spanning both education levels and public and private sectors, and including new partners, will need to be developed, expanded, organized and built by leveraging state-of-the-art knowledge on scaling of social innovations. For example, the collective impact approaches that incorporate key success determinants of common agenda, shared measurements, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communications, and backbone support organizations have the potential to yield large-scale progress towards NSF INCLUDES’ goals. While the latest knowledge from the science of broadening participation provides a strong foundation, novel systems approaches and designs for achieving scale are critical for advancing diversity and inclusion in STEM.
Collaboration for Impact, an Australian non-profit, identified four phases of Collective Impact(see below) which may be useful for INCLUDES applicants in thinking about the activities required to build the necessary alliances, shared understandings, measurement tools and organizational structures to meet the criteria for success. CFI also provides a document for backbone organizations. This document includes job descriptions which might help applicants brainstorm about their budgets. A 2015 SSIR article that specifically addresses equity issues in Collective Impact initiatives may be of particular interest in planning INCLUDES projects. The NSF solicitation cites articles on Scaling Social Impact, and “Building Networked Improvement Communities in Education” that merit a look.
Spelman faculty who are interested in submitting a preliminary proposal to INCLUDES are advised that the college can only submit ONE full proposal, so it is necessary to build alliances both within and outside Spelman from the beginning. Please keep Dr. Scholz apprised of your plans.
Image source: Collaboration for Impact