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The Birth of a Movement

Posted on October 1, 2015
By Kerry Graham

I became a collective impact evangelist in 2012. I saw and felt its possibility and what it might mean for the unacceptably high and stubbornly consistent number of Australians living in entrenched disadvantage, despite us being the 'lucky country', seemingly immune to impacts like the global financial crisis.

Engage_Collaboration.pngEarlier that year, I had become curious about the framework and tested it with a 'stuck' collaboration I was facilitating. I saw some shifts and the first glimmer of possibility. Curiosity gave way to evangelism after a colleague and I travelled around the U.S. spending time with inspirational initiatives like Magnolia Place, Homes for Good LA and Strive, and interviewing practice leaders from United Way and field builders like FSG and Bridgespan.

My colleague and I came back feeling that Australian social leaders and communities inherently knew how to do this work ­- they just lacked some confidence, an accessible framework to guide them and stories that showed it was possible.

We followed our intuition and set about intentionally fuelling a movement.

We spent 2013 blogging, speaking at any conference that would have us, and connecting with like­minded social leaders across the country. We hosted the first Collective Impact conference in Australia, selling out six weeks in advance and connecting a cohort of early adopters who shared our sense of possibility.

In September 2014 we launched The Search -­ a 9 month capacity building program with a million dollar incentive to find and fund Australia's most promising early­stage collective impact initiative. Eighty communities engaged from across the country and 11 were shortlisted by an international judging panel. The collective impact movement was well underway and the sophistication of the shortlisted communities meant selecting only one was an exceedingly difficult task for the judges.

I write this article in the afterglow of our third national conference, Collaboration for Impact. This conference was markedly different from the first two which were about leaders from communities and sectors coming to learn about collective impact from us. With the growth of the movement, maturing of the field and sheer appetite for practice­based learning, communities came to learn from each other.

This year, the Australian learning community was born. It is an incredible milestone on our young but long journey of helping communities tackle their complex problems and it feels full of possibility.

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Collective Impact


Kerry Graham

By Kerry Graham

Kerry Graham has worked in social change for more than 20 years. She is a Collective Impact Consultant at the Centre for Social Impact.

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