The collaborative cohort, which is based on the “collective impact” approach, is part of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette’s new strategic direction to leverage the expertise, resources, and effort of multiple organizations across the region in working together toward one common goal: breaking the cycle of childhood poverty.
United Way’s Community Strengthening cohort is comprised of 30 emerging and established non-profits serving low income and culturally specific communities across the metropolitan area. The cohort will work together for a period of three years (July 2014 through June 2017) to create and participate in learning communities designed to share experiences, exchange data and information, and build collective knowledge around new and promising practices to improve outcomes for low-income families and their children. Each member of the Community Strengthening cohort will be awarded up to $50,000 per year, to complete this critical work. (*Funding to YWCA Clark County and the other non-profits in the cohort is contingent on the funding United Way receives as an organization to its Breaking the Cycle fund.)
“We are pleased to participate in United Way’s Community Strengthening cohort because it will not only help ensure the sustainability of our programs, but it will ensure a concerted effort to integrate best practices in effectively addressing the root causes of poverty.,” said YWCA’s Director of Programs, Natalie Wood. “We hope to work collaboratively to better identify how poverty is intertwined with the prevention and crisis intervention services we provide, assess our strengths and growth areas to determine what organizational changes we can make to directly address the root causes of poverty more effectively, and ultimately adopt new practices that allow us to have an even greater impact in the community.”
Each non-profit organization participating in United Way of the Columbia-Willamette’s Community Strengthening cohort has agreed to share their results through a common measurement framework, to work together on critical problems and innovations in the field, and to build a common knowledge base about collective impact on childhood poverty in our region.
“We are ecstatic to be collaborating with the outstanding organizations selected to be a part of our Community Strengthening cohort on breaking the cycle of childhood poverty. The issue of poverty is incredibly complex, with multiple facets; it’s a far greater issue than any one organization can resolve alone,” said Keith Thomajan, CEO of United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. “In utilizing the collective impact model, we are confident we can amplify and accelerate the impact we are making in our community specific to student success, family stability, and connected communities to give every child, regardless of their socioeconomic status, a fair chance at success. Quite simply, we are better together.”
The Collective Impact Model
The collective impact model, as articulated by the non-profit consulting group Foundation Strategy Group (FSG), is a model of work that brings people together, in a structured way, to achieve social change. There are five conditions** of “collective impact” that lead to meaningful results:
1. A common agenda: All participants have a shared vision for change including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions.
2. Shared Measurement: Collecting data and measuring results consistently across all participants ensures efforts remain aligned and participants hold each other accountable.
3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities: Participant activities must be differentiated while still being coordinated through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.
4. Continuous Communication: Consistent and open communication is needed across the many players to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and appreciate common motivation.
5. Backbone Organization: Creating and managing collective impact requires a separate organization(s) with staff and a specific set of skills to serve as the backbone for the entire initiative and coordinate participating organizations and agencies (The backbone organization for the Community Strengthening strategy is United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.)
**Source: Foundation Strategy Group (FSG) http://www.fsg.org/OurApproach/CollectiveImpact.aspx
To learn more about United Way’s Community Strengthening strategy and the other organizations involved in the cohort, please visit http://www.unitedway-pdx.org/community-strengthening-investments