Monday, October 14, 2013

Chunky, Not Smooth

Collaboration has aptly been defined (by the Council on Economic Competitiveness) as an unnatural act among non-consenting adults. As a result collaboration is never smooth. But it helps if it is chunky.

John Kania, one of drivers of the Collective Impact framework at FSG, emphasizes that efforts to achieve sustained positive change in complex systems should be broken into chunks to build early wins and momentum. The importance of "chunkiness" hit home last week during a health and human services discussion among community leaders. Some at the table thought narrowing the discussion to "youth issues" might make the conversation less daunting. That wasn't the case, as the conversation soon stalled as the group struggled with where to even start -- early childhood, literacy, educational attainment, health etc. The list of "youth issues" is nearly as endless as "health and human services issues."

Considering what makes for good "chunkiness" can help stakeholders decide where to start. I think three big factors should be considered when collaborators are beginning to consider their first chunk to take on.

1. Manageable -- Is the chunk within the influence of the present group of stakeholders at the table?
2. Meaningful -- If the collaboration is able to create change within that chunk will it make a meaningful difference in the overall issue, or at least give stakeholders the confidence to take on an even more meaningful chunk?
3. Measurable -- Can we measure the progress we are making on changing the "chunk" and the downstream effect that change is having on the overall issue?

If your collaboration can identify a first chunk that is manageable, meaningful and measurable you are on the path toward Collective Impact.

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