What is a Backbone?
Although the term “backbone” comes from collective impact literature, the concept of a backbone is relevant to many large-scale systemic change strategies. The impact of a backbone on the success of a cross-sector, cross-system collaboration can not be underestimated. The Backbone Organisation helps maintain overall strategic coherence and coordinates and manages the day-to-day operations and implementation of work, including stakeholder engagement, communications, data collection and analysis, and other responsibilities.
Our friends at the Collective Impact Forum, have created the attached ToolKit for Collective Impact Backbones.
This toolkit includes a number of tools for establishing the infrastructure of a Collective Impact Backbone. The kit includes a list of sample backbone activities, a working group meeting planning and execution checklist, a sample request for proposals for backbone organisations, and sample backbone position descriptions. The tools have been generalised to be applicable across contexts (and continents!); however, because no two collective impact efforts are the same, these resources should be considered a starting place to be tailored to the unique circumstances of each initiative.
Download the toolkit here (.docx): CIF – Backbone Toolkit
Spark Policy Institute, specialists in working together with communities to solve complex problems, have also created a Strategic Backbone Toolkit.
This toolkit focuses on the critical, strategic roles and actions a backbone organisation – whether part of a collective impact initiative or other collaborative structure – can take to elevate the initiative’s overall work and impact. This toolkit is not a how-to for being a backbone. Rather, it is a next-level guide for backbones that want to be more than a basic supporting infrastructure, or that are going from managing to directing a complex initiative.
Download the toolkit here.