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.

The Buzz May 2017 Edition

Autumn has seen a buzz of activity across Mt Druitt as we come together to ensure all children in the 2770 postcode start school well.

We email The Buzz every two months to share progress, learnings and opportunities to get involved. Is there something you’d like to see included, or someone you know who’d benefit from receiving The Buzz? Please get in touch.

Click here to view the edition.

Suburb Work

  • Kickoff for 2770’s Oztag comp!
  • Second Wilmot school holiday program
  • Lethbridge Park working group

Postcode Work

  • Family Connections Training begins

Systems Work

  • Linker Network Prototype in Willmot


  • Welcome Deb Ennis as Early Childhood Coordinator

Click here to view the edition.

The Buzz March 2017 Edition

2016 was a busy year as we continued working to form the appropriate local governance structures for The Hive. In 2017 we’re excited to be progressing with more direct work towards our goal that all children in the 2770 postcode start school well.

To help keep everyone informed of our progress and learnings to date and to share opportunities to get further involved in this collaborative work, we’ll be emailing you The Buzz every two months. We’d love your feedback on what you’d like to see included in these updates, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with your thoughts. You can also find out more about The Hive and our work here.

Click here to view the edition.


Complexity. It underlies many social issues in Australia. It’s why community dynamics sometimes suddenly shift, funding opportunities open or close, government policy changes, and community leaders emerge. It’s behind the many twists and turns that minimise the effectiveness of traditional programs and services dealing with complex social issues. And it’s why there’s growing momentum in Australia for using a Collective Impact approach.

But is Collective Impact the right approach for all complex social issues?


  1. You have a complex social issue that can’t be resolved with standard interventions
  2. There’s energy, alignment and a desire for change in the community
  3. Services, government, business and philanthropy are prepared to work collaboratively with the community to achieve change

If you want to explore this further, there are valuable free assessment tools available from Collective Impact Forum and Tamarack Community. 


  1. The issue isn’t clear or measureable
  2. The approach is mandated or imposed by those not living or working in the community
  3. There is no agreement about who can perform the backbone function


  • Spend time working with the local community to understand issues, build trust, and identify priorities
  • Build relationships and alignment among all stakeholders, so they respond to and work with the local community
  • Frame the issues and approach in plain English
  • Develop collaborative structures and processes
  • Start small to allow for failure, to demonstrate the way of working and build momentum
  • Engage in continuous monitoring, learning and improvement


  • Mistaking meetings for collaboration
  • Relying on technical experts
  • Introducing ready-made solutions from elsewhere
  • Not adequately resourcing the ‘backbone’ function
  • Trying to move too quickly, without changing mindsets and building a collaborative culture

One thing is for sure, when we work in complex environments, much is unpredictable. It’s simply not possible to control all the variables at play.

What we can do is position our initiatives to withstand the shocks, and leverage the opportunities complexity creates. But this means always remaining agile and open to harnessing serendipity. Collective Impact can help enable that but all involved must embrace that at its core, the approach means this is not business as usual.

Are we in the social purpose sector, government, business, philanthropy and in communities prepared to do things differently?

About the author:david_lilley-web-square

David Lilley is Senior Manager NSW at United Way Australia, and the founding Director of The Hive Mt Druitt, a Collective Impact initiative in Western Sydney, co-founded in 2014 by United Way Australia, the ten20 foundation and NSW Family and Community Services

This blog was originally posted by United Way Australia.