• search

Collective impact

What is collective impact?

Collective impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem. The underlying premise of collective impact is that alone, no single individual or organisation can create large-scale, lasting social change. “Silver bullet” solutions to systemic social problems do not exist; they cannot be solved by simply scaling or replicating one organisation or program. Strong organisations are necessary but not sufficient for large-scale social change.

The concept of collective impact was first references in the 2011 Stanford Social Innovation Review by John Kania & Mark Kramer.

“… we believe that there is no other way society will achieve large-scale progress against the urgent and complex problems of our time, unless a collective impact approach becomes the accepted way of doing business.” – John Kania & Mark Kramer

What does collective impact involve?

Collective impact has five elements:

  1. Common Agenda
  2. Shared Measurement
  3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities
  4. Continuous Communication
  5. Backbone Organisation
Common agenda
  • Common understanding of the problem
  • Shared vision for change
Shared measurement
  • Collecting data and measuring results
  • Focus on performance management
  • Shared accountability
Mutually reinforcing activities
  • Differentiated approaches
  • Coordination through joint plan of action
Continuous communication
  • Consistent and open communication
  • Focus on building trust
Backbone of Support
  • Separate organisation(s) with staff
  • Resources and skills to convene and coordinate participating organisations

What are the benefits of collective impact?

Amplify impact
  • Offers a holistic approach by channelling the energy of various stakeholders towards solving a problem and achieving long term, systemic change
  • Provides opportunities to influence the system from within and outside by coupling advocacy with action
Increase efficiency of resources
  • Allows more efficient use of funding, especially in times of scarce resources
  • Enables leveraging of public and private source of funding
  • Opens channels for organizations to access additional funding against an issue
Drive alignment
  • Reduces duplication of services
  • Increases coordination
  • Embeds the drive for sustained social change within the community

Collective impact initiatives are currently being employed to address a wide variety of issues in Australia and around the world, including education, healthcare, homelessness, the environment, and community development. Many of these initiatives are already showing concrete results- click on the links below to read more about successful Collective Impact case studies in Australia and around the world.


Education: Education Benalla

Homelessness: 90 Homes 90 Lives

Children and Families: Blue Mountains Stronger Families Alliance



Environment: Elizabeth River

Health: Shape up Somerville

Employment: Opportunity Chicago

Community development: Vibrant communities

Youth and substance abuse: Franklin County Communities that Care


Juvenile justice: New York State Juvenile Justice

An example of collective impact in action is the transformation in juvenile justice reform in New York State (2010 – 2012). New York State took its lead from the successful juvenile justice reforms Connecticut has witnessed between 2000 and 2010. One of the benefits of collective impact is that ‘lessons learned’ in other settings allow for similar improvements over shorter times.


  • New and stronger relationships across the system
  • Deeper knowledge of programs and services
  • Significant policy changes
  • Commitment to data-driven decision making
  • Engagement of Local Communities
  • Empowerment of new stakeholders


  • Juvenile arrests drop by 24%
  • Juveniles admitted to detention declined by 23%
  • Juvenile probation intake cases declined by 20%
  • Juvenile petitions filed declined by 21%
  • Juvenile admissions in state placement were down by 28%
  • Number of youth in state custody declined by 45%


Other resources


Channelling Change: Making Collective Impact Work

Understanding the value of backbone organisations (four part blog series)

Embracing Emergence: How Collective Impact Addresses Complexity



Collective insights on collective impact

How public policy can support collective impact

Guide to evaluating collective impact