New Research Study: When Collective Impact Has an Impact

Posted by Collective Impact Forum on April 16, 2018

We are excited to share with you the recently published: “When Collective Impact Has an Impact: A Cross-Site Study of 25 Collective Impact Initiatives,” conducted by a research team from the organizations ORS Impact and the Spark Policy Institute.

This study, commissioned by the Collective Impact Forum in early 2017, was designed to look at the question of “To what extent and under what conditions does the collective impact approach contribute to systems and population changes?”

In order to explore these questions, the research team studied 25 sites — with eight deep dive site visits — and has generated a rich set of findings that we hope will be useful for the field of collective impact practitioners, community members, funders and researchers/evaluators.

The research team looked at the implementation of the five collective impact conditions and the Principles of Practice, and how these contributed to the following:

Early Changes: Changes to the environment that lay the foundation for systems and policy changes, such as increased partnership quality, collaboration, and awareness of the issue.

Systems Changes: Changes to core institutions within the initiative’s geographic area that (1) may be formalized and likely to sustain or more informal experiments that could lay the groundwork for future formalized changes, and (2) may happen in a single organization, multiple organizations with a common purpose (both in terms of issue area and sector), or multiple organizations with multiple purposes, and

Population Changes: Changes in the target population of the initiative, which may be specific people within specific systems, geographic areas, or with specific needs.

A key finding of the report is that “the role of the collective impact initiatives in contributing to population change alongside other efforts or enablers is a critical and valuable aspect of social change.”

The content below highlights some of the key findings from the rich and nuanced report. For more depth, we encourage you to read the Executive Summary and the Full Report.

In addition, we would like to thank the funders supporting this study: the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Houston Endowment, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Our Collective Impact Forum team will be working over the coming months to share additional insights for how these findings may inform your work. Stay tuned for a webinar diving into the study and its findings, future blogs going deeper on specific pieces of the study, and virtual coffee chats with leaders from some of the sites that were study participants. We also welcome other ideas for how we can make the findings of this report most useful for you … do let us know!

For more information about the report and to download the full report and executive summary go to

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