4 must-reads on Collective Impact

The Four Papers you must read on Collective Impact

1. Collective Impact (2011)


Remember, this paper didn’t ‘invent’ Collective Impact out of nowhere. What it did was to put a framework around the elements of population change projects that they believed contributed to success. While only published in 2011 the term Collective Impact has had a meteoric rise since then and is used to describe all sorts of projects involving more than one player. Some people have only ‘subscribed’ to this model of Collective Impact, and some have applied this to way of working that would not stand up against developments discussed in the below papers.


2. The Equity Imperative in Collective Impact (2015)


A little known follow up, particularly it seems in Australia, to the original paper by the same authors. This paper is somewhat of an admission that the original paper didn’t give enough weight to the role of equity in Collective Impact. It also provides key components, such as navigating through discomfort, developing common language and dis-aggregating data, to explain ways to approach equity within this work.


3. Collective Impact 3.0 (2016)


The title makes a clear point in this paper – an evolving framework. This is a must read and provides an evolution of what was put forward in the original 2011 paper by Kramer and Kania. This paper evolves the theory by giving another view on the ‘how’ of the ‘5 ingredients.’ Importantly, this paper differentiates the 2.0 and 3.0 version by talking about management and movement building paradigms. This approach to talking about Collective Impact as a movement is important to distinguish it from just another large scale project that doesn’t provide a catalyzing effect, or really motivate people to do the hard yards. The movement paradigm emphasises the importance of engagement and cultural change if we want to see real and lasting community change.

4. When Collective Impact Has An Impact (2018)


The first methodological study that takes a deep dive into Collective Impact initiatives (or initiatives that can be described as delivering collective impact), this study offers new insight into the factors contributing to positive outcomes.

What I take from this study is the following findings:

  • In the early stages you cannot possibly provide ‘all the elements’  and that is ok
  • Investing in the early years in building a strong and legitimate backbone that builds leadership across the community is key, as is developing a robust common agenda
  • It takes 8 to 10 years to start to see population level shifts
  • Equity needs to be baked in from the start for best effect
  • Initiatives that designed and progressed solely around systems change initiatives are less likely to be achieving results


All four papers are important to develop and evolve your thinking on the practice of Collective Impact. To only look at the 2011 work of Kramer and Kania would be to miss the important evolutions and findings that have occurred since then. In doing so you would miss the critical importance of cultural shift and movement building.

Got a paper you’d like to suggest should be included in this list – email danielle.roderick@unitedway.com.au to discuss further.

Danielle Roderick is the Collective Impact Manager and facilitator for The Hive Mt Druitt. Dani’s role is to guide the overall strategy and vision for the Hive, liaise with partners and manage the operational team.

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