I think Jen's advice is incredibly important because achieving collective impact is very difficult, and the last thing civic leaders should do is pursue it for the wrong reasons. While I believe passionately in the framework, Jen is right when she says it isn't always the correct approach to a community opportunity.
Based on experience and some recent conversations with some philanthropists and nonprofit leaders, I'd encourage everyone thinking about adopting collective impact to first take a hard look at the quality of the non-profits with which they would be working.
Do they have a proven track record of producing outstanding outcomes -- what Mario Morino in Leap of Reason calls high performers? The best way to get to collective impact is to start with high performers. Even a great collaboration among average performers can only produce average results.
Here's my overly simplistic short-hand as to what needs to be present to even consider exploring whether a collective impact initiative is worth pursuing.
- Skill -- Are there sufficient number of stakeholders in the space with the demonstrated ability to produce outcomes that give one confidence that achieving something great (collective impact) is possible?
- Will -- Is there sufficient trust and motivation among the stakeholders to go through the pain and agony of collaboration?
- The Bill -- The act of organizing for collective impact does take resources. Is everyone involved willing to see some of the dollars flow to the "process" rather than having them all go to the "doing?"