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.

The Power of Partnerships

Some problems are simply too complex to solve with any single approach. Consider the fact that in the United States, a million students drop out of high school each year. To begin to turn back that trend, we need to work on several fronts — assist vulnerable families when children are infants, improve classrooms from preschool through high school, provide afterschool supports and college access assistance, tackle the issue of summer-learning loss and get much smarter about addressing students’ social and emotional needs at every stage. In the words of Clay Shirky: “Nothing will work, but everything might.” But doing “everything” in piecemeal fashion won’t work. We need not only to do all of these things better than we have in the past; we need to link them in smarter and more effective ways.

In Tuesday’s column, I wrote about an effort in the social sector that is gaining momentum called “collective impact,” a disciplined effort to bring together dozens or even hundreds of organizations in a city (or field) to establish a common vision, adopt a shared set of measurable goals and pursue evidence-based action that reinforce one another’s work and further those goals.