What is Collective Impact?

Collective impact is an approach to addressing complex social problems. The typical strategy to trying to address social issues involves individual organizations in various sectors working mostly in isolation. These organizations often end up competing and “exponentially increasing the perceived resources required to make meaningful progress.” Collective impact is an emergent approach to societal change that seeks to leverage resources, passion, know-how, and data. It is more than just collaboration; it involves long-term commitments from cross-sector partners, and is defined by unity around a common agenda and mutually-agreed-upon shared measures for solving a specific social problem. 

Collective Impact is a fundamentally different, more disciplined, and higher performing approach to achieving this large-scale social impact than more typical isolated impact efforts. Complex social problems need nonprofits, governments, businesses, and the public working together in deliberate ways.

Organizations around the world have enthusiastically embraced Collective Impact as they uncover emerging solutions to complex societal problems. Through Collective Impact, work can happen in a better, faster, and in a sustained way for real community change to take place.3

“Collective impact marries the power of intentionality with the unpredictability of emergence in a way that enables communities to identify and capitalize on impactful new solutions.”4

Success can be attained when five vital elements occur: common agenda, shared measurements, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and the support of an independent backbone organization.4

EPIK was created as a starting point backbone organization to assemble a campaign around the complex issue of raising children in a tech-saturated world.

Key Points: A Collective Impact…

  • Involves a collaborative working toward the same goal.
  • Requires long-term commitment with a plan (e.g., it can take 4-6 years to see results).
  • Focuses on the “needle moving” change with a target in mind (e.g., 10%).
  • Includes community members as important actors.
  • Incorporates cross-sector collaboration.
  • Focuses on purposeful data and proven methods.
  • Brings together cross-sector partners to determine an agenda based on purposeful data.

Collective Impact Summary


helpful resources

Collective Impact – 2011 Stanford Review

Channeling Change: Implementing Collective Impact

Strive Framework Overview

Embracing Emergence: How Collective Impact Addresses Complexity