Collective Impact

Communities collaborating for change

Collective Impact enables a group of organizations to address a major challenge by developing and working toward a common agenda that fundamentally changes population level outcomes in a community.  When successful, communities solve big complex challenges (e.g., youth unemployment, low graduation rates, poverty) or make substantial societal shifts (e.g., more sustainable food systems) by creating a shared multi sector understanding of the problem, a common vision and an action plan with shared measurements and reinforcing activities. 

Successful Approaches CI

Collective Impact initiatives aim to generate significant population level outcomes such as raising graduations rates by 10% points, cutting youth unemployment in a neighborhood in half, or doubling local food production and consumption. Achieving these outcomes requires sufficient participation of community members effected by the issue, community organizations, business and government leaders. Communities interested in implementing a Collective Impact approach should ensure that they have appropriate capacity including influential multi sector leaders engaged in the process; that the issue being addressed is considered urgent and important and that there are adequate resources to support implementation.  

In their Stanford Social Innovation Review paper called Collective ImpactHelps group of organizations address fundamentally change population level outcomes in a community through a collective theory of change and implementation strategy., John Kania and Mark Kramer of FSG Social Impact Consultants also identified five conditions for collective impact initiatives. Innoweave has adapted these five conditions to underscore the need for common outcomes goals and approaches:  

  • Community level outcome goals (Priority # 1)
  • A clear model of how to work together to achieve those goals  (Priority # 2)

Once defined, these are supported by:

  • Shared measurement of outcomes and leading indicators
  • Continuous communication and improvement
  • Backbone coordination and support

Collective impact generally requires the engagement of leaders from across different sectors of the community.  When bringing diverse leaders together, collective impact requires increased focus on the building of relationships and the use of data to inform and measure progress.  

Population Level Outcomes

Innoweave‘s Collective Impact process (including Youth CI) supports collaboratives that will deliver significant change in population level outcomes (e.g., rates of violence or employment, pollution levels in a city).

Groups of organizations working together that are not focused on population outcome goals will be very difficult to support through Collective Impact, even if they are doing valuable work together. Some of these groups may use the Innoweave process to develop population level outcomes or could be better supported in other ways, including those that wish to:

  • Scale a program (but not necessarily change population outcomes). These groups may be better supported through the Scaling Impact module.
  • Promote program participation (but not necessarily change population outcomes). Participation often leads to an outcome, but is generally not an outcome in and of itself (e.g., attendance rate in itself may not lead to a population outcome, but a graduation rate could). Groups that want to develop to population level outcomes goals may wish to use Workshop 1 to refine their outcomes and to clarify how program participation will lead to those outcomes.
  • Set broad inclusive goals (that are very hard to achieve with available partners and resources). Collective Impact requires population objectives that are clear and specific (e.g., reduce the gap in graduation rates between a specific group and the population average by 50%). One geography may require more than one Collective Impact effort. Groups that want to focus on a single outcome goal (or area) may wish to use Workshop 1 to focus their outcomes.
  • Collaborate, communicate and/or support one another (but not necessarily change population outcomes). There are many ways to work together on programs and projects that do not require Collective Impact. Groups should consider whether there are better ways to collaborate to meet their goals.

To learn more:

To learn more about collective impact, view the video above. Live webinars (and info sessions) are also regularly scheduled. Those currently scheduled are listed at the bottom of this page. The Collective impact module includes two workshops, coaching to help groups of organizations establish a collective impact approach, and funding to help collaboratives to launch.

Youth CI:

Innoweave has also partnered with the Laidlaw Foundation to offer the Youth CI program, which aims to help organizations in local communities across Ontario learn about, develop, launch and implement Collective Impact approaches that directly improve outcomes for youth in their community.

Youth CI supports communities through a process of information sessions, workshops, coaching, and grants to build and execute a successful Collective Impact strategy.


Content for this module has been developed by Tamarack.