Tag Archives: collective impact

Collective impact: Voltron Vs. The Borg

honey-bees-345620_1280A while ago, I wrote about how frustrated communities of color have been regarding collective impact (visit the Collective Impact Forum to learn more about what collective impact is and read thoughts on it).  Most CI efforts start out with the best of intentions. As they develop though, they sometimes warp into massive entities that conquer and destroy all in their paths. I liken this to Star Trek villain The Borg, a species made up of billions of individuals who got annexed into a single hive mind, whose catchphrase is “resistance is futile.” The Borg are a terrifying and destructive force, much like restricted funding or those annoying grants that make you get people to vote for your org.

I was talking about this at a training on equity, when a colleague said, “You know what collective impact should be more like?”

“The Golden Girls?” I asked.

“No. Voltron!” Continue reading

Why communities of color are getting frustrated with Collective Impact

hand-813525_960_720A while ago I wrote “Collective Impact: Resistance is Futile,” detailing the frustrations of CI and comparing it to The Borg on Star Trek. “Controlled by a hive mind that neutralizes any sort of individualism, and comprising billions of annexed individuals, [The Borg is] strong and terrifying, like an army of zombie robots, each with one eye that has a laser beam.” That was my first impression of Collective Impact, at least the way it’s being playing out in Seattle.

Years later, Collective Impact continues to spread, with mixed results and reactions. I talked to a funder on the East Coast last week, and she said her state is getting sick of the constant mention of Collective Impact. Meanwhile, in a Seattle, a colleague of mine said, “Collective Impact is like The Governor in The Walking Dead—seems nice, until you’re locked in a room with it.”

Talking to other nonprofit leaders, I’ve started noticing some patterns. There is definitely a sense of frustration of how CI has been manifesting in Seattle, and among leaders of color, that sense of frustration is even more palpable. We need to have an open discussion about how Collective Impact has been affecting diverse communities, and work toward some concrete actions that would make it more effective.

But before we get into the discussion, a couple of disclaimers. First, I am not against Collective Impact. I think it has done a lot of good, with Strive Together and Harlem Children’s Zone being two examples. And heck, I am involved with efforts that would arguably be labeled as Collective Impact: Rainier Valley Corps (RVC), which is developing nonprofit leaders of color and organizations led by communities of color with the ultimate goal of getting diverse communities to work together to effect change; and the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC), a communities-of-color-led coalition rallying people together to help school and kids succeed in the most diverse quadrant of Seattle. (Also, to a lesser degree, ED Happy Hour, a backbone organization encouraging EDs to get together monthly to engage in mutually-reinforcing therapy involving alcohol). Continue reading

The Frustration with Innovation: Bright Shiny Object Syndrome and its effect on the nonprofit sector

Chicago_Bean_2_by_lightzoneOne of the great things about our sector is how innovative it is. There are smart, talented, socially-conscious people—nonprofit staff, funders, researchers, boards, donors, volunteers. We come up with amazing ideas all the time. In the past few years we’ve had 40 Developmental Assets, and 21st Century Skills. We’ve had evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence. We have strategic planning, then strategic thinking. We have Collective Impact and Youth Program Quality Initiative. We have STEM. We have online learning. Some trends, like the importance of parental engagement in students’ academic performance, die and then resurface. I call them “Zombie Trends.” Now the latest trend is “We need to send more nonprofit staff to Hawaii so they can relax and recharge!”

All right, fine, that last one may not be an actual trend, though maybe it should be.

Lately, however, I’ve been encountering among my peers more and more frustration with funders’ seeming obsession with innovation. An ED friend called it the Bright Shiny Object Syndrome (BSOS), this apparent inclination to drop everything and zoom in on the newest, sexiest concept to support, with sometimes negative consequences. The focus on early learning, for example, while important, has affected funding for youth programs, and the shift to collective impact has not always been positive (see “Collective Impact: Resistance is futile“). Continue reading