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Centering Equity in Collective Impact (ssir.org)

 

In 2011, two of us, John Kania and Mark Kramer, published an article in Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled “Collective Impact.” It quickly became the most downloaded article in the magazine’s history. To date, it has garnered more than one million downloads and 2,400 academic citations. More important, it encouraged many thousands of people around the world to apply the collective impact approach to a broad range of social and environmental problems. Independent evaluations have confirmed that the approach can contribute to large-scale impact,1 and a global field of collective impact practitioners has emerged. Their efforts have immeasurably deepened our understanding of the many factors that can foster or stymie collective impact’s success.

Reflecting on the past 10 years, we have observed through our own personal and professional journeys and the experience of others that the single greatest reason why collective impact efforts fall short is a failure to center equity. Thus, we believe that we must redefine collective impact to include centering equity as a prerequisite. In this vein, we propose a revised definition of the concept: Collective impact is a network of community members, organizations, and institutions that advance equity by learning together, aligning, and integrating their actions to achieve population and systems-level change. To center equity, collective impact efforts must commit to a set of actions that we will explore in this article.

In what follows, we focus on racial equity, as people of color are often the most structurally, institutionally, and interpersonally marginalized in the United States and many other countries.5 We believe, however, that focusing on racial equity also enables us to introduce a framework, tools, and resources that can be applied to other areas of marginalization—including disability, sexual orientation, gender, class, caste, ethnicity, religion, and more.

Exploring the marginalization of people along multiple identities can also create space for taking an intersectional6 approach to the work, recognizing that those holding multiple identities (e.g., women of color) are often worse off than others. We encourage practitioners to examine local data and listen to the experiences of people in their community to understand which populations are most systematically left behind, and then to work with marginalized populations to adapt the strategies shared here to improve their lives.

To read more of John Kania, Junious Williams, Paul Schmitz, Sheri Brady, Mark Kramer & Jennifer Splansky Juster 's article,  please click here.

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