This FSG report features a Q&A session from the 2013 Champions for Change: Leading a Backbone Organization for Collective Impact workshop for experienced backbone leaders, held in partnership with the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions, the Strive Partnership, and the Tamarack Institute. The report explores the value proposition of collective impact for funders, how to measure the success of backbone organizations, and the importance of emergence and adaptive solutions when engaging in collective impact.

Champions for Change: Leading a Backbone Organization for Collective Impact
A Conversation with Workshop Faculty

Fay Hanleybrown:
How do you communicate the value proposition of the backbone to funders and community partners? What is your elevator pitch?

Jeff Edmondson:
Strive did a miserable job of this for years. We made the mistake of always talking about adults because as backbones we’re focused on getting the adults to work together nicely. We worked with three different communication firms and, for the first two tries, all mission statements and one-pagers focused on adults. By the third time, we thought, “why don’t we focus on the kids, the beneficiaries?” We talked about outcomes.

We found that all of the one pagers focused on adults got no traction; the successful ones put impact and outcomes for kids at the top. The value add of the backbone is that we are going to move these outcomes at all costs. The “we” is a big “we,” and we’re going to use data to make progress. This means we’re not going to start new programs, we’re going to look at data to move outcomes. Detroit has an emerging cradle to career partnership called Drive Detroit. They boiled down their core approach to a very simple statement: There’s a new way for people and organizations to come together using data to create a better Detroit for our children.