This toolkit from the Forum for Youth Investment's Ready by 21 initiative is designed to guide community and state leadership groups at the beginning of a new initiative, to help them assess the urgency of the need and the shape such an effort should take. These tools help them answer questions about such issues as roles, governance, and structure, including identifying or building a steering committee and mapping existing coalitions, networks, and organizations working on the issue to identify existing resources and gaps. Most of the tools in this kit are carried out as a group activity and were created for partnerships working on child and youth issues, but can also be used by partnerships focused on other populations or on specific community issues.

What this is
Ready by 21 is a set of innovative strategies developed by the Forum for Youth Investment that helps communities and states improve the odds that all children and youth will be ready for college, work and life. The Forum organized those strategies and the related tools under “the four B’s”: Broader Partnerships, Bigger Goals, Better Data and Bolder Action. This toolkit helps groups of leaders build or strengthen a partnership’s leadership infrastructure, including the backbone support function; align and strengthen existing coalitions; and engage key stakeholders in setting priorities and solving problems.

How this connects to Collective Impact
While the leadership council or “steering committee” may lead the charge in a collective impact effort, dedicated staff is critical for the “backbone support” functions, coordinating the efforts of participating organizations, networks and individuals in ways that create the conditions for collective impact success. Specifically, they help participants:

  • develop a common agenda – such as a shared set of desired outcomes and a plan to achieve those outcomes;
  • collect and share data – about youth outcomes, community support and leadership actions;
  • align their activities and resources – so that they are mutually reinforcing, and do not unnecessarily overlap or leave gaps; and
  • continuously communicate – with each other and with other stakeholders, including the public.