Breakout #3: Collaborative efforts; getting others involved


Facilitator: Stephen Patrick, Executive Director, Aspen Forum for Community Solutions Scribe: Eva Penar, Director of Marketing and Communications, The Chicago Community Trust

Stephen Patrick began the session citing an article from Stanford Social Innovation Review, “Embracing Emergence: How Collective Impact Addresses Complexity.”  He discussed the importance of collective impact and the value of this process for social change.  The article by John Kania and Mark Kramer highlights The Five Conditions of Collective Impact.

The Five Conditions of Collective Impact

Common Agenda

All participants have a shared vision for change including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions.

Shared Measurement

Collecting data and measuring results consistently across all participants ensures efforts remain aligned and participants hold each other accountable.

Mutually Reinforcing Activities

Participant activities must be differentiated while still being coordinated through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.

Continuous Communi­cation

Consistent and open communication is needed across the many players to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and create common motivation.

Backbone Support

Creating and managing collective impact requires a separate organization(s) with staff and a specific set of skills to serve as the backbone for the entire initiative and coordinate participat­ing organizations and agencies.

The White House has created the White House Council For Community Solutions , which works to identify and spread community solutions. Community foundations are at the forefront of this conversation. Successful collaboration is key for community foundations.

The attendees were tasked to answer the following questions and share their answers with the room:

1.                                One question you have about getting others involved/creating or growing collaboratives?

2.                                One lesson learned from your experience?

The following themes emerged from the shared lessons learned:



Cross Sector

Usual Suspects

Transformational Leaders



Trust Building

Importance of Trust

Trust takes Time

Change Happens at the Speed of Trust

Backbone Selection vs. Turf & Credit

How do you get past limited resources?

Competition for Scarce Resources

Information Sharing & Ownership & Democratization

How do you incorporate the voice of citizens?


Open Data


Impact on Issue

Why collaborate if you are not trying to make positive change?

Achieve Impact

Prescription vs. Loose


Sustain Collaborative

Sustain Work

Data, Data, Data

How do you use data?

Power and Data

Action Triggering


Adding Human Resources around Collaboration

The group discussed the theme of leadership through collaboration.  Collaborative efforts need to be open to multi-generational leaders. Successful leaders are those that care about the cause and are passionate about the mission. They have abilities to be ambassadors for the work and create shared values for the project. Collaborations are successful when leaders are more concerned about the outcomes of the project vs. self -interest; “Check your ego and logo at the door.”

A champion is critical for collaboration. Having short -term wins is as important as having long-term vision. It increases momentum and propels the group toward shared goals. Champions are added as a result of a small win.  People have a desire to be at the table.

A good resource on strong leadership: The Transforming Leader, A Collection of Essays by Fetzer Institute Carol Pearson Editor

Trust building was the next theme that the group discussed.  There are many barriers in a community around trust: personal, turf, cultural and economic.  One way to build trust in a community is relationship building. It’s the key to building trust, and trust in turn is the key to moving the project forward.

“A leader is most effective when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, his troops will feel they did it themselves. “~ Laotzu

The Aspen Institute wants to learn from community foundations. Please send your examples of successful collaboration to [email protected]