By Liz Weaver, Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement
Community change efforts are complex and messy. Typically they are designed to tackle a vexing problem such as: poverty, homelessness, environmental degradation, or educational achievement, where often only limited progress has been achieved.
Successful community change efforts bring diverse partners into agreement around a common agenda, determine the shared measures that will show progress and leverage those activities which will be used to drive forward change. This is the essence of a collective impact approach.
But it is not enough to do the work collectively. Measuring progress is essential to assess the progress that the collaborative table is making over time. FSG, authors of Collective Impact, have recently released a Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact. This series of three publications provides practical advice, tools and case studies for individuals working on collective impact efforts.
Guide 01: Learning and Evaluation in the Collective Impact Context focuses on the critical importance of valuing learning for continuous improvement into collective impact initiatives. This enables CI practitioners to both embrace complexity and also be adaptable as the community changes and evolves.
In Guide 02: Assessing Progress and Impact, FSG provides a useful framework for designing and conducting performance measurement and evaluation of collective impact efforts. This framework details the different stages of collective impact efforts: the early, middle and late years and the action and evaluation approaches best suited for each stage.
Guide 02 also provides some interesting case studies of collective impact initiatives across each of the stages. Tamarack’s Vibrant Communities is profiled as a case study example of a late years approach for effective evaluation practices.
In Guide 03: Supplement: Sample Questions, Outcomes and Indicators, FSG lists a number of key takeaways for evaluating collective impact. These include:
- Continuous learning is critical to collective impact success.
- Collective impact partners should adopt a two part approach to measuring progress and evaluating effectiveness and impact.
- The collective impact change process typically involves three stages of development, each of which requires a different approach to performance measurement and evaluation.
- Performance measurement and evaluation bring indisputable value to a collective impact initiative and should be given sufficient financial and logistical support.
Perhaps the most practical of the guides is Guide 03. Included in this guide are strategic questions to consider in the design and implementation phases of a collective impact initiative. There are also sample outcomes and indicators for each of the five conditions of collective impact.
In addition, the guide provides sample outcomes and indicators for related functions of a collective impact approach which include: the learning culture of the collaborative effort; capacity; behavioural change from both professional practice and individual behaviour perspectives; and measures for systems change; including funding flows; cultural norms; and, advocacy and public policy. This guide provides a comprehensive list of measures that will surely help every collective impact effort understand and measure its impact.
The Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact is a useful and timely resource. Evaluation and shared measurement are amongst the most challenging of the conditions of collective impact, particularly when the collective effort is shifting and changing in response to interventions. FSG has provided useful tools and food for thought that will undoubtedly enhance collaborative outcomes and continue to build the case for investment in collective impact efforts.
- Download the Collective Impact Forum’s Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact
- View the Evaluating Collective Impact Webinar of the Collective Impact Forum
- Watch the Collective Impact Forum’s video, Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact.
- Attend Tamarack’s Collective Impact Summit in Toronto – October 6th – 10th, 2014
- Listen to Evaluating Collective Impact: Six Simple Rules with Mark Cabaj, From Here to There, Tamarack Associate
- Learn more and register for Evaluating Community Impact workshop in Winnipeg, Manitoba. November 18-20, 2014
Originally published in Engage!, Tamarack’s free monthly e-magazine.