Creating a common agenda and shared measures means developing a concrete action plan – one that specifies the measurable outcomes the initiative wants to achieve and the major interventions required to reach them.
Many Collective Impact initiatives start with a high-level vision, such as reducing suicide or improving school readiness in young children. In most cases this high-level vision remains the same. What is needed when it comes to creating a common agenda is for this high-level vision to be translated into something measurable. The initiative should ask: What are the few key goals for the community over the next five years to achieve this vision?
Create a common understanding through data
In order to set these key goals, the cross-sector leadership group and other participating in the agenda-setting process must develop a common understanding of the problem. The cross-sector nature of the Leadership Group will necessarily mean there are different perspectives on the vision, the problem and the solution. The most effective way for moving beyond different perspectives to a common understanding is through data.
The cross-sector Leadership Team and others need to analyse and discuss the data around the problem they are seeking to solve. The data should be as localised and recent as possible. This may mean having to go beyond national and regional data sets and instigate local data collection.
Data used should be both quantitative (e.g., crime incident data, suspensions and expulsions) and qualitative information (e.g., community or youth focus groups). The analysis of data should demonstrate the size and scope of the problem – where it happens, how often, to whom etc. It should also seek to break down the problem into stages (eg cradle to career), categories (eg types of homelessness) or other meaningful grouping.
Other data should also be collected about the existing resources and assets in the community. This data should identify what currently exists that could be coordinated to address the problem, such as organisations and agencies, programs, services, groups and individuals, and infrastructure. You can find a tool to map the system in your community here.
The analysed data will inform an early key decision (if is has not already been made) – the geographic boundaries of the initiative. Is it one suburb, a local council area, a State, or all of Australia?
There will be inevitable barriers to accessing data. In such cases the cross-sector Leadership Group and backbone organisation need to work together to remove these barriers and foster data sharing opportunities.
Based on the data collection and analysis work the initiative should provide a clear problem statement, including a needs analysis that provides data-based, factual factual justification for a plan’s direction.
Develop an Action Plan
Once the data has been analysed it is possible to set goals for significant change. It is recommended that a small number of goals (5 – 7) be set by the initiative.
Understand the evidence-base
Before setting specific metrics for change, it is important to invest time in understanding the best ways to make change in the problem you are trying to solve. This means research the evidence base. With the evidence base known, the initiative can integrate information on best practice with local experience in order to determine which policies, practices and programs are the best available to achieve the goals.
It is recommended that the initiative widely disseminate within the community the research on best practice. It will be a useful tool to engage the community in a conversation to understand how evidence based practice is currently being applied and how to shift practices in any area.
Define specific and measurable objectives for each goal
With a greater understanding of the evidence base and the change in practice required in the community, the initiative is in an informed position to develop objectives for each goal. These objectives should be specific in terms of actions and intended outcomes. It is recommended the the Action Plan provide examples of specific evidence based activities to be implemented under objectives.
Create a logic model
A logic model is a powerfully visual way to communicate the vision, goals and objectives of the collaborative. The logic model visually breaks down each goal into actionable steps. One good example of the logic model is Strive Roadmap to Success.
The Strive example is a Logic Model over the life course of a child from cradle to career. This Roadmap allowed collaborators to better align their community of efforts. The genesis of the roadmap served as a forcing function for the alignment of partners. Indeed, its development was a critical part of the process for creating a shared vision, along with an agenda for moving forward. Though critical, it was not easy to gain consensus. Core partners grappled with the research and Cincinnati’s data over several years before agreeing to this course of action.
A tool to help you develop a Theory of Change or Logic Model can be found here.
Develop a Work Plan
A detailed Work Plan is the implementation driver mutually reinforcing activities (element 3 of the Collective Impact framework). Importantly, it describes:
- The various pathways required to achieve the goals and objectives
- How collaborators can align their programs, interventions, resources and advocacy efforts around the evidence base.
It is critical to co-develop the Work Plan with collaborators and the community. The Work Plan should indicate how community resources, programs, and systems will be aligned and the data metrics that match up with each objective and goal. Given this, it is also critical to get commitment or at least common agreement from collaborators on a long-term timeline.
Develop tracking mechanisms and accountability measures
- Establish mechanisms, infrastructure and entities to track and monitor implementation.
- Measure short-term, medium-term, and long-term outcomes.
- Identify a partner to assist with evaluation.
Some IT platforms that are supporting many Collective Impact initiatives are:
- A useful tool to help set community-wide goals – Results Based Accountability
- A data platform which allows multiple organisations to enter and/or shared data – Effort to Outcome
- A tool to track and report on changes in population level data – Results Scorecard
Next page: Build the backbone infrastructure