Phase 1 – Generate ideas and dialog

Meaningfully engaging the community is the focus of Phase 1.

Community engagement is critical to the success of a Collective Impact initiative.  Phase 1 of the Collective Impact framework is focused on testing and building the case for change with key stakeholders and the broader community.

Phase 1Key questions

The types of questions the core collaborators should ask themselves and others are:

  • Is my community‘s history with collaboration positive or negative? How can we use either situation to our advantage?
  • What pressing issue or opportunity has brought us together? Will this idea galvanize leaders across sectors in my community?
  • How does the issue identified by the collaborative fit into the broader context of our community? Are other efforts under way? Are there opportunities for partnership with existing collaboratives? In what ways is our work needed and additive to existing work?
  • How can we foster genuine community partnerships to help us understand the issue and create the necessary support for the interventions needed?

Strategy and activities

The types of activities undertaken by the core collaborators in Phase 1 is:

  • Conducting landscape research as necessary to understand how to build the collaborative to be effective within the community context.   What else is happening in the community? Are there other initiatives or collaboratives focused on similar or related topics?  How does the collaborative fit into the broader community context?
  • Developing a community engagement strategy.  Engage in conversations with relevant community leaders, residents (including youth, if applicable), business leaders and owners, and funders.  Conduct series of meetings, forums, focus group, surveys and calls to engage other potential stakeholders, such as nonprofits, government agencies, advocates and community members with an interest in the issue involved.
  • Determining how and when residents, parents or youth can be involved to ensure that the collaborative has authentic engagement.
  • Starting to create the 3 pre-conditions for Collective Impact – Champions, financial resources and a sense of urgency.
  • Developing media to share the message.

There are a number of good resources available to help core collaborators design and deliver a successful community engagement strategies and activities – see the Links section on the right.

One effective mechanism that has not yet been documented is the ‘Table of 40’.  This mechanism involves convening 40 people comprising 10 from government, 10 from business and philanthropy, 10 from nonprofits, and 10 with lived experience.  The time-limited role of the ‘Table’ is to help design the community engagement strategy, potentially deliver some of the activities and contribute to creating a level of consensus and/or urgency for change in the community.  Typically, a Table of 40 would meet three to five times.

Moving towards a Common Agenda

Through the process of engaging with the community and generating ideas and dialog, the initial purpose of the collaboration will be refined to better reflect the community context.

Buiding common agenda

 The good, the bad and the ugly

What works well in Phase 1 is:

  • ConversationEngaging the community in conversation
  • Identifying the value proposition, common ground and shared values
  • Having a core group of dedicated people to lead
  • Spending time on relationships and trust by inviting usual and unusual suspects

What is challenging in Phase 1 is:

  • Competing priorities and competing agendas
  • Developing a laundry list of activities but not focusing on the core goal
  • Identifying who needs to be at the table and keeping them there – legitimacy of decision-makers
  • Agreement around the issue and early milestones

watch outWhat to watch out for in Phase 1 is:

  • Dealing with the tension of being the convenor without being the driver
  • Identifying an urgent issue that has community ‘buzz’
  • Managing community engagement and action
  • Establishing shared leadership from the beginning


When does Phase 1 end?

Phase 1 never really ends. It is all about meaningfully engaging the community as designers and producers of social impact.  And this work is a priority through out the life of the initiative.

Having said that, the time to move into Phase 2 is when the core collaborators can answer YES to the key question: Is there consensus/urgency to move forward? 

Remember, collaboration is cyclical not linear.

Next Phase: Initiate action