Systems change and Collective Impact are not synonymous (rather Collective Impact is an approach/framework)

Posted 3 years ago at 4:31 am

Hi All

I have been a part of this forum for several years now, but haven't been active on the forum at all. I was doing some digging around at some of the recent postings. 

I came across this upcoming FSG training entitled "Moving from Vision to Implementation: Strategies for Systems Change in Collective Impact" and it raised a ponder I have long had about Collective Impact. To me, Collective Impact is one approach (or framework) that can be utilized to carry out systems change. This training title seems to (maybe) suggest the reverse, that systems change is one activity that you can do as part of a larger Collective Impact initiative.

I guess it comes down to - do all Collective Impact initiatives, but default, do systems change?

Maybe I am overthinking this and it's just a semantics thing, but I know from doing training with non-profits in systems change I have moved away from calling systems change that involves many players - Collective Impact- and instead communicate, what systems change is, what these efforts might look like in the social sector, and communicate that the use of a Collective Impact approach or framework, could be used to help guide these efforts. However, I also communicate that there are other systems change models (and give examples of these) and make it clear that systems change and Collective Impact are not synonymous (rather Collective Impact is an approach/framework). 

Have any others had similar ponders? Any thoughts on this?


Elizabeth McGee

1 Comment

Robert Albright

administrator, backbone organization, funder of initiatives, technical assistance provider / consultant, blogger, funder community of practice


Thank you for your comments. I agree with you that collective impact is one approach for achieving systems change. My apologies if the wording of our upcoming training was unclear or caused confusion. 

Would you be willing to share a short list of some of the other systems change models that you most commonly reference? I think others in our online forum would benefit from knowing about other helpful systems change approaches and how collective impact is similar / different from other approaches. 

We hosted an online training in 2015 -- Is Collective Impact the Right Approach for You? -- that began to tackle this question about the approapriateness and readiness factors for collective impact. If someone watches that webinar and decides that collective impact is NOT the right approach for them, that's where it would be helpful for people to know about other systems change approaches to have in their toolbox.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!


Submitted by Robert Albright on Mon, 2017-10-02 23:05

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