Collective Impact

Making a meaningful impact on our community – in education, health or economic opportunity – will require all of us coming together and working toward the same goal.

To make large-scale social change, all of us – funders, service agencies and community leaders – must work together, sharing the same goals, data and measures of success.

That’s why the Tulsa Area United Way is placing increased focus on a new social change model known as collective impact – multiple organizations working closely together to make a difference.

To that end, the local United Way recently began investing in collaborative initiatives and innovative venture projects, in addition to annual investments in its 59 partner agencies and emergency funding.

Annual investments will always be part of our model, to sustain our partner agencies and their expert work. But collaborating with other organizations, and encouraging our partner agencies to do so, will increasingly become part of our mode of operation.

The Tulsa Area United Way has invested in several collaborative initiatives in recent years, including projects to reduce the homeless population, prevent teen pregnancy, and promote the study of math and science in public schools. In addition, a variety of social innovation grants have been awarded to area organizations that are adopting creative, innovative approaches to systemic community problems.

To help, the local United Way is strengthening data collection, scanning the local environment and determining areas in which multiple agencies can work together.

These collaborative initiatives may involve our partner agencies, other non-profit organizations not funded by the United Way, and foundations, as well as the private sector.

The non-profit sector has often utilized an approach referred to as "isolated impact," in which individual agencies tackle social problems independently. Many funders also provide grants to single agencies to focus on a single issue. Although this approach may work in some cases, alliances across the nation are making a greater impact when they work together.

Five conditions of collective success include: adopting a common agenda, sharing the same measurement systems, coordinating responses to make progress, engaging in continuous communication, and forming a backbone organization to drive the entire initiative, according to John Kania and Mark Kramer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.