top of page

Collective Impact

An article in the Winter 2011 Stanford Social Innovation Review outlined five ingredients for successful collective impact (CI) at the local level. The idea took off in a big way and is still going strong. See the original article here:

The five ingredients for successful collective impact.

  1. Common Agenda. Collective impact brings local people and organizations from different sectors (civic, business, government) together to work on a particular initiative. All participants must understand and agree on exactly what the initiative intends to accomplish. By focusing on a particular set of goals, chaos is reduced and success is more likely.  

  2. Shared Measurement System. For each goal or subgoal, measurable key indicators are specified. All participants must be open with the measurements that they can provide. This can be problematic for some participating organizations and agencies, so it is critical that all participants honestly agree to be transparent.

  3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities. This is where real progress can be made. Each participating organization, as it learns what the others are doing, can make modest adjustments in their own activities in order to mesh better with the others, thus improving outcomes all around. But this requires real friendship, with everyone being delighted to boost the overall result. A tit for tat approach will bring only minimal benefits.

  4. Continuous Communication. Clearly everyone has to be kept up to date and new ideas must be encouraged to percolate through the collective impact community. In person meetings are often possible, since everything is happening locally, but an online process is also required.

  5. Backbone Organization. The independent backbone organization provides paid staff. The wikipedia article on collective impact lists six functions of the backbone staff: “Guide Vision and Strategy; Support Aligned Activity; Establish Shared Measurement Practices; Build Public Will; Advance Policy; and Mobilize Funding.” Clearly a backbone organization is a requirement, but that organization is ever so likely to have its own agenda, however much it tries to be purely supportive of the collective impact initiative it has adopted. The process will only work if the participating organizations trust the backbone to be open and not heavy handed.


A Shared Agenda

The shared agenda for our proposed CI project has three parts. First is the building of a coalition of civic, business and government organizations to support the creation of a San Francisco UN Goals Advisory Committee by October 24, 2020 (UN Day). Second is the drafting of a City resolution to create the new Advisory Committee. And third is to persuade the City of San Francisco to adopt the resolution without changes that might weaken the ability of the new Advisory Committee to pursue its goals.

Measurable Goals

There are seventeen SDGs with 169 targets as sub-goals, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has thirty articles that overlap considerably with the SDGs. Additionally, San Francisco is already implementing CEDAW through its Commission on the Status of Women. Nuclear disarmament is closely allied with the issue of general and complete disarmament under the heading of Peace. Various UN Conventions cover more issues, some of which are still pending ratification by the U.S. Senate. Additionally the UN Calendar of International Days lists many issues, most but not all of them covered by the SDGs and the UDHR.

Our first measurable goal is to bring in organizations to our coalition for all of the SDGs, for nuclear disarmament and peace, and for as many of the 169 SDG targets and UDHR articles as possible, while also welcoming organizations focused on other UN goals. We will count a) joining the coalition, b) participation in the Voices of Humanity continuous communication process online, c) participation in local in-person meetups, d) provision of volunteers for outreach, e) willingness to join the new UN Goals Advisory Committee once it is established, and f) provision of funding.

Our second measurable goal is a high level of agreement on the text of the proposed Board of Supervisors resolution establishing the new San Francisco UN Goals Advisory Committee. We begin the building of the coalition with a draft resolution, which is very helpful to the process, but naturally there will be changes to the resolution as we go along.

Our third measurable goal is the actual passage of the proposed resolution by the Board of Supervisors.

Mutually Reinforcing Activities

The participating organizations can build a sense of solidarity by adjusting their activities to mesh more efficiently with those of the other coalition members. This applies both within the separate goals and across the silos. The Voices of Humanity online social medium is structured to help build a kindly and active community with an intelligent common consciousness. These features will make mutually reinforcing activities a natural outcome of the project.

Continuous Communication - the Role of Voices of Humanity

Voices of Humanity can be a big help for collective impact in general as well as for this particular proposal. VoH implements geographic levels, so it can bring together multiple local CI endeavors into a larger national or global project. As a bottom-up process, it can bring balance to the top-down influence of the backbone organization. The built in voices by gender and age can be augmented as needed with other intersectional breakouts. The ability to break out sub-groups by issue adds an “across-the-silos” capability that intersects with the identities, so we have a hugely flexible matrix of identities and issues that can be brought into play as needed. And finally, the voice of humanity-as-one maintains the holistic perspective which can otherwise get lost in the emphasis on measurable outcomes. The voice of humanity-as-one will also reinforce that sense of camaraderie which is needed for the CI endeavor to implement mutually reinforcing activities.

VoH features that will be useful for collective impact:

  1. Communities and community hashtags. For instance the “@sdgs” community is for VoH participants who support the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is easy to see the list of messages in the VoH forum written by @sdgs members. Each community has a corresponding hashtag. For instance if one specifies hashtag #sdgs in the forum as well as @sdgs, then one sees only messages written by @sdgs members which are meant to be of interest to the SDGs community. Each collective impact project can have its own community. In this way, CI participants from many projects can be rubbing shoulders in the forum, and even belong to more than one project.

  2. Geographic levels (city:metro:state:nation:global). The geographic levels intersect with the communities, so, for instance, if you live in San Francisco, California, you can easily limit the forum list to messages written by the @sdgs community members who live in San Francisco or who live in the Bay Area, or California or the USA. Or you can go global. An initiative looking to have CI projects in many cities in the U.S. can set up a national community, so the local CI members can easily share across many cities. This feature makes it at least thinkable that there might be a national or state CI project with local chapters that meet in person. Even a global CI project might be set in motion. For our local San Francisco project, participants in the higher geographic levels may well provide novel ideas and perspectives for consideration.

  3. Anyone may add their voice or comment on what others have written and may hashtag the message to bring it to the attention of a particular community. The VoH process is bottom up.

  4. Voting on messages. Any participant can give any message 1, 2 or 3 thumbs up or down. The thumbs up or down votes generate an “approval” rating between -3 and +3 and an “interest” rating between +1 and +3. A comment generates an interest rating of +4 for the message commented on. A “value” score is calculated as the average approval times the average interest for the rating. Regression to the mean prevents an item with few ratings from winning the day unfairly.

  5. Voting results are available on the “Voices of Humanity” page where the top rated messages are listed for the Voice of Women, Men, Youth, Experience (middle-aged), Wisdom (seniors) and the Voice of Humanity-as-One. For the Voice of Women, we list the top rated message written by a woman as rated by women and so forth for the other Voices. The Voices of Women and Men build gender equality into the process. A date range for the past day, week, month can be set to include only recent messages. The Voices of Humanity forum can be sorted by value, interest, approval and controversy as well as by date..

  6. “Simply human” is the designation available for those who do not identify with a particular gender or age group.

  7. A platform for community action. It is easy to restrict the VoH forum list to messages designated as “Nonviolent Action” oriented by their author. When in action mode, new items are automatically tagged #nvaction.

  8. New moon and full moon lunar cycles will provide bottom-up guidance for the CI coalition. Each new moon, the highest rated messages at the San Francisco / UN Goals level will be emailed to participants. A single message goes out each new moon with the highest rated items from the Voice of Women, the Voice of Men, the Voice of Youth, the Voice of Experience, the Voice of Wisdom and the Voice of Humanity-as-one.  Each full moon, the highest rated action-oriented messages will be emailed in a similar fashion.

  9. Transparency but with a curtain. When posting a message, the user may specify that the message be restricted to members of the current community. The message will be emailed only to community members. Non-community members may see the message by visiting the community, so transparency is maintained, but members of the community will be able to share within the community without feeling they are adding to the communication overload more widely.

  10. Together and apart conversations will implement unity-and-diversity in a dramatic way. The same messages that participants write and vote on for the lunar monthly cycles, will also be part of a UN Goals Together and Apart conversation. The first half of each lunar month will provide the highest rated results for all the UN Goals participants together, and the second half of each month will provide separate results for each of the Goals. This process will build the “across the silos” sense of unity-and-diversity that we must have for success. A VoH smart-phone app is expected to be available by Spring of 2020 to implement the together-and-apart UN Goals conversation for San Francisco.

  11. Bottom up Networks (coming by 2021). Bottom up networks will enable local CI members to create an across-the-silos network for themselves, such as @peace, @genderequality, and @nuclear_disarm. Easy user access to this network will restrict the forum list to messages that are written by those who belong to all of these communities. There is more to it, but that’s the idea.

  12. Identity Communities (coming by Spring, 2020). This will create communities for all user profile values, such as "Profession", “Faith tradition”, “Class”, “Cultural affiliation” and “Political affiliation”.

  13. Peer-to-peer networking (coming when we have the funding for it). When VoH goes peer-to-peer, larger organizations can have their own VoH hub hosted on their own computer network. This will enable them to enlist their members while keeping email addresses secure. Peer-to-peer networking will also enable massive participation without fear of losing the network if particular host computers go out of service.

Backbone Organization

CCI needs a suitable partner to be both the backbone for the project and a joint applicant for the grant. We are seeking an organization with excellent San Francisco connections and a broad interest in the Goals of the UN.

bottom of page