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  • Writer's pictureSara Zellner

A Roadmap for Partnerships and Collective Action

Using corporate responsibility to foster community-wide change often entails forming multi-sector partnerships with organizations that have the expertise and breadth to reach the population of interest. While the outcomes of these partnerships can be rewarding and enhance a company’s corporate responsibility endeavors, collaborating with organizations outside of the private sector can have its challenges. Partners from other sectors may have a different lingo, hindering communication; staffing and resource deficiencies may exist; or organizations may be mired in bureaucracy that limits the rapid implementation of projects.

As one potential solution, we touched upon the successful elements of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in recycling in one of our posts last year that could serve as guide for external partnerships in corporate responsibility.

But for companies looking for broader advice on to tackle similarly complex social problems with partners from one or more sectors, the Collective Impact model may serve as a solid foundation for a successful partnership.

The Collective Impact Roadmap

There are five key elements of a Collective Impact initiative.

  • Common Agenda: Partners develop a mutual understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it. Key terms are defined to create common language. Memorandums of understanding (MOUs) describe each partner’s commitment (e.g., resources, data).

  • Shared Measurement: Metrics and data collection are consistently measured, ensuring alignment and accountability.

  • Mutually Reinforcing Activities: A plan of action outlines complementary activities for each partner, and knowledge is shared across the initiative.

  • Continuous Communication: Internal and external communications build trust within the group and with outside stakeholders and keep the initiative on track.

  • Backbone Organization: Dedicated staff coordinate the activities of the initiative and its partners. The backbone organization is dedicated to advancing the common agenda through concerted activities such as fundraising and measurement.

But does it work, you ask? Yes, it can. However, solving the problem(s) at hand may take time, and optimal success requires a higher standard of quality implementation of the Collective Impact initiative.

For a case study that explores the early stages of launching a cross-sector partnership that considers the use of Collective Impact or other models to serve as the basis of the collaboration, download our report, “Assessing Community Efforts to Address Key Health Issues in Kent County, Michigan,” attached below. And if you’re interested in learning more about how and why businesses get involved in community health initiatives, check out our previous post on the topic.

Community Health Coalition Report
Download PDF • 1.40MB


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