4 Components for Establishing Mutually Reinforcing Activities

Posted on March 6, 2020
By Natasha Pei
mutually reinforcing

Does this situation sound familiar? You have a group of people who have committed to reduce poverty using a Collective Impact or collaborative approach. You know what needs to be done to support people to escape poverty in your community. Yet, scaling the initiative to create large-scale impact feels out-of-reach, because everyone is already at maximum capacity and doing their best to participate “off the side of the desk.” So, the work becomes a series of small manageable projects and programs that raise awareness and help alleviate poverty for some individuals and families.Both awareness-raising activities and innovative programs are essential to poverty reduction, but without intentionally weaving together interventions and targeting systems-level actions, we fall back to “alleviating” poverty; which, already occurs every day through our current public and non-profit social support system. The unique opportunity that poverty reduction roundtables have is to work at a birds-eye-view and coordinate, align, and scale what’s working to get population-level (city or community-wide) impacts.

But, with everyone already strapped for human and financial resources, how do we ask for more? The answer is, we don’t. We look towards mutually reinforcing activities.

Imagine your partners’ programs are like the stars and when you work collectively together, you pull the stars together to form a constellation. The power of collective action comes not from the sheer number of participants or the uniformity of their efforts, but from the coordination of their differentiated activities through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.

In a Collective Impact effort, mutually reinforcing activities are considered the “powerhouse” of the initiative. Rather than doing more work, the goal is to align what is already happening and to make informed decisions about how to re-route or re-invest existing resources to fill gaps in the community, and/or scale what’s already working.

During the month of February, we discussed mutually reinforcing activities with a small group of rural communities and began workshopping some tools and resources that collaboratives can use in their own communities. Below, you will find some key components for establishing mutually reinforcing activities and a few helpful resources that the group is exploring.

  1. Make the case: Make salient how all organizations – businesses, public institutions, non-profits, citizens – are all already investing in responding to the effects of poverty, and uncover the duplication/under-utilization of existing poverty reduction initiatives.

    Insights from the first tools we workshopped included:

  1. Engage the right people: Analyze what role(s) everyone is taking on and who is missing or what responsibilities are not being filled in a Collective Impact. Tools from the library:

  1. Co-design: With everyone in the room, start from your common agenda goal and work backwards to establish Theory of Change and activities needed to achieve that goal. Tools to from the library:

  1. Reflect and revise: Analyze whether your mutually reinforcing activities will create systems change and move the needle at a population-level, and adjust as needed. Tools from the library:

Collective Impact, Natasha Pei, Poverty Reduction, Cities Reducing Poverty

Natasha Pei

By Natasha Pei

Natasha Pei brings online content to life and engages our members in the Vibrant Communities learning centre for poverty reduction. Natasha's involvement with Tamarack began with the Communities First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) project, where she worked as a Research Assistant in the Poverty Reduction Hub, studying effective ways community-campus engagement can be undertaken to have real benefits for the community.

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