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Collective Impact in Motion

Posted on December 8, 2016
By Mary Pickering

A new report by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) and Evergreen CityWorks reflects on the lessons learned by Move the GTHA, a dozen civic groups that coalesced around the need for transit investment in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

The report, Collective Impact in Motion, covers the period during which TAF provided funding to Evergreen to launch a collaboration aimed at accelerating transit investment, through to when Premier Wynne’s government was elected on a platform that included significant new funding for transit. 

What makes this detailed case study particularly unique is its effort to document the “behind the scenes” lessons that help support excellence in project implementation – ones that tend to fade from view as we complete one initiative and head into the next. The report considers how the project’s collaborative group was conceived of, why it came together, who participated and why, and how much investment of time and money it required. We included thoughts about the role of funders in supporting – and participating in – collaboration work, and the importance of “backbone” support in keeping the wheels on the collective bus. And we compare our experience with the model developed by John Kania and Mark Kramer in 2011 that expressed five elements that define the new field of “collective impact” work. 

Insights into the internal workings that kept a dozen diverse civic groups at the table for two years, educating one another and co-developing and jointly implementing strategy in a way that brought new resources and political attention to their cause are particularly valuable.  Take a look at the report if you are curious about:

  • What exactly happened during all those phone calls and meetings?
  • What did we spend our money on?
  • Who was responsible for what?
  • What did we do when we couldn’t agree?
  • What types of new relationships and insights developed and how did it affect our work? and
  • Was it all really worth the effort?

If you are curious about how the efforts of the Move the GTHA group was integrated with political decision-making around increasing funding for transit and active transportation in the GTHA, you can take a look at the project milestones. These span the announcement of The Big Move plan in 2008 to calls for new revenue tools from the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the high-profile Drummond Report, the launch of the “Your 32” campaign and a Zombie Video release!

If you are a funder or an organization interested in – or struggling with – when and how to enter into a formal cross-sectoral collaboration to make change, you will also want to see the 10 key lessons developed from this work, a distillation of experience gleaned through the keen observations of the “backbone” players. See these to find out why collaboration may be the wrong move, what new skills are needed to manage this kind of work, and why multi-stakeholder work is deemed critical for developing sustainability solutions.

Learn More:

Collective Impact, Articles

Mary Pickering

By Mary Pickering

Mary Pickering is the Vice President of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, in Toronto, Ontario.

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