Collaborating for Impact: What is Collective Impact and Why Does NVI Care? - Bob Woodruff Foundation

Collaborating for Impact: What is Collective Impact and Why Does NVI Care?

As of November 1, 2020, National Veterans Intermediary (NVI) is called the Local Partner Network. Older content may reference our original name.


What is Collective Impact?

The swell of support surrounding Veterans and military service members has been described as a “sea of goodwill.” It’s an apt metaphor for the vastness and power of communities’ desire to see Veterans succeed in transition. But a sea can also churn, overwhelm, and defy even the best navigators. To best support our Veterans, communities need a proven model for cross-sector collaboration.

Enter “Collective Impact.”

Codified in a 2011 Stanford Social Innovation Review article by John Kania and Mark Kramer of FSG, “Collective Impact” is a structured approach to working together, better. Through their research, Kania and Kramer observed five “conditions of success” by which collaboratives were achieving real social change in their communities.

The “conditions of success” can be considered the pillars of the Collective Impact model.

Common Agenda:

To arrive at a shared mental model for social change, collaborators must first agree on the problem at hand, and a shared approach to solving the problem. Individual organizations may contribute based on their unique strengths, but the vision of the problem and solution are shared among all collaborators.

Shared Measurement Systems:

Shared measurement systems require that participants agree on what constitutes success, and what metrics will be used to evaluate success. A working shared measurement system also necessitates that participants have a way to input, analyze, and report data from a shared system. Imagine the power of all communities collecting common measures.

Mutually Reinforcing Activities:

Mutually reinforcing activities capitalize on the diversity of the collaborators. Based on organizational strengths and mission, participants design and tailor activities to contribute to the common agenda.

Continuous Communication:

Continuous communication is simultaneously easier and more overwhelming than ever. Regardless of mode of communication, the practice is essential to building trust, a sense of equity, a shared vocabulary, and the ability to learn and problem-solve in an informed, collaborative fashion.

Backbone Support Organizations:

If all this sounds overwhelming, we’re on the same page. The last condition of success is what sets Collective Impact apart from collaborative models, and is what makes the rest sustainable. A backbone support organization is the infrastructure through which all of the efforts of the collaborative are coordinated. These are a cadre of staff who perform, at a minimum, the program management, data management, and coordination functions of the collaborative.

Why does NVI Care?

NVI is a convener. Specifically, we are a convener of conveners. We recognize that the current state of Veterans support organizations is complex, fragmented, and difficult to navigate.

Our NVI Local Partners represent the conveners in their respective communities. They are the collaboratives, Collaborative Veterans Engagement Boards, and networks that work together to solve their communities’ Veteran issues.

Until now, there hasn’t been a framework in place for Veteran collaboratives to elevate their successes or lessons learned. Best practices have remained stuck in communities, and questions have remained unanswered. We are solving that problem by creating a national network of networks. As each community improves their ability to collaborate for impact, their advances can be shared across the nation. We will provide valuable planning and decision-making information as we learn together.

Do you represent a collaborative serving Veterans, service members, or military families? Join our email list to learn more about partnership opportunities.