In this two-part blog, originally published in The New York Times, David Bornstein explores how the collective impact strategy of creating alliances of civic and business leaders is being applied to social problems across the nation. Published in The New York Times, March 7 & 10, 2011.

MARCH 7, 2011, 10:05 PM
Coming Together to Give Schools a Boost

We only have to consider some of the nation’s greatest achievements to appreciate what’s possible when we coordinate efforts rationally. At its peak, for example, the Apollo program, which put a man on the moon, involved 400,000 people and 20,000 companies and academic organizations. The Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic bomb, coordinated the work of 130,000 scientists, engineers and others. The Los Angeles Olympic Games were successful because of unprecedented cooperation among civic groups, government agencies and businesses.

This week, I’m focusing on a new strategy for addressing large-scale social problems that has been dubbed “collective impact.” The idea is to create a network that links numerous organizations — including those in government, civil society and the business sector — and helps them to systematically align and coordinate their efforts around a clearly defined goal, like improving education, combating childhood obesity, or cleaning up a river. It may strike some readers as obvious, but it represents a departure from business as usual — and it strikes me as one of the most important experiments occurring in the social sector today. One of the leading examples of collective impact is the Strive Together partnership, which focuses on helping young people in Cincinnati and two neighboring cities in Kentucky achieve success from “cradle to career.” The partners include early childhood educators, school superintendents, college presidents, business leaders, foundation directors and a range of civil society executives. They came together in 2006 after a report noted that Ohio and Kentucky were lagging behind other states in college attainment rates. Community leaders were concerned about remaining competitive in a global economy.

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