Consider CI for our youth violence prevention consortium

Posted 8 months ago at 4:50 am

I work with a county health department that got a grant in 2014 to develop a youth violence prevention initiative. The grant ended last year and I've been brought in to help create sustainability and build capacity, particularly with the community consortium that was formed. We began a strategic planning process in May and are beginning to think about setting establishing objectives when I came across the CI model. I think it would be a great process to integrate but we have no funding committed -- I'm working as a VISTA and my assignment ends in November.  From what I've learned, I don't think we're ready for this but I would like to get a handle on how we can be.  Are there tools we can use to prepare ourselves?

Calculating the Cost of Collective Impact – New Backbone Budget Scenario Tool

Posted Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 5:01 pm

We talk a lot about the importance of a backbone organization in collective impact, but moving from the conceptual idea of a backbone into making it a reality requires key decisions around three important pieces: size & structure, selection process, and funding sources.

The visual below outlines the key strategic questions any collective impact initiative must answer when going through the process of creating a backbone:

Implicit within these questions is a need to first have a basic understanding of how much it will cost to create and operate a backbone organization. How can a community fundraise for backbone infrastructure without having a rough budget in mind for how the money will be used? How can a community make key decisions on how many and what types of full-time employees the backbone should have without first knowing the cost implications of those choices?

The 3-Year Backbone Budget Scenario Analysis Tool is a new tool created by FSG in order to help answer that first, important question of how much will this cost. In our collective impact work, we often get the question, “How much would it cost for us to create a backbone organization for our initiative?” The answer is “it depends.”

It depends on a number of inputs, including number and type of full-time employees, salary ranges, various operational cost buckets, and level of shared measurement investment. This tool allows you, the user, to develop scenarios based on each of these considerations.

Please check out the tool in the CI Forum resource library. We hope this will be a useful resource for collective impact initiatives going forward, and please let us know if you have any questions or comments to share.

Download 3-Year Backbone Budget Scenario Analysis Tool


3-Year Backbone Budget Scenario Analysis Tool

The 3-Year Backbone Budget Scenario Analysis Tool is a new tool created by FSG in order to help answer the question, "How much will it cost to launch and operate a backbone organization?" Every backbone has different needs, but this tool provides a potential budget that can help answer some of the estimated costs, and can be adjusted to fit what you need.

Read more about this tool in the blog: Calculating the Cost of Collective Impact – New Backbone Budget Scenario Tool


Featured Story: The Road Map Project

This short story is about The Road Map Project's impact on closing the achievement gap in Seattle.

The numbers never lie – but sometimes they hide the truth. Consider: the rate of educational achievement in the Seattle metro region. In 2010, nearly half of all residents had earned at least a bachelor’s degree – a striking number, made all the more striking by the fact that nationally, only about 30% of Americans are college graduates. But dig a little deeper into the data, and you find that the region’s numbers are skewed by out-of-staters who move to the area. In fact, only about 25% of youth who came through the local public school system hold college degrees, and when we look solely at people of color, that number plummets to 10%. Stark statistics, stark truths – both of which are being confronted via collective impact.

The Road Map Project hopes to foster large-scale change by implementing a four-pronged approach: aligning cross-sector actors, engaging parents and community members in the development of solutions, building stronger and more seamless systems, and leveraging the power of data to fuel improvement. This last element has proven to be especially powerful to date. By harnessing the power of numbers, the Road Map Project has changed the conversation about education and catalyzed collective action. 

Stakeholders recognized early on in 2010 that focusing solely on Seattle and South King County’s high school students wouldn’t be enough to solve the underlying problem; instead, the Road Map Project adopts a “cradle to career” approach intended to double the number of students on track to graduate with a college-level credential by 2020 while simultaneously closing achievement gaps for low-income students and students of color. Having attracted high-profile local support for its mission (from, among others, the City of Seattle and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), the Project’s next step was to create a system of shared measurement. The initiative selected several indicators where progress can be tracked from year-to-year (or as often as possible), and are linked to student educational success.

With its indicators in place, the Road Map Project is able to leverage data in a number of ways. Most immediately, the data show whether students are meeting their achievement goals, and the strategies are continually reviewed and revised accordingly. The initiative goes further, however, in an effort to hold itself accountable to the Seattle and South King County community – it releases the indicators, and current progress toward those indicators, on the Road Map Project website and through an annual report. Publicizing the data has helped to spawn friendly competition between school districts: as one administrator has said, “we were seeing how other districts around us were doing…we don’t want to look worse than them.”

The numbers never lie – sometimes they highlight the truth. Even though the Road Map Project is early in its implementation, several gains have been made. Partners in the region collaborated to increase the number of students receiving the state’s College Bound Scholarship – giving students a free-ride to college – raising the number of eligible low-income students enrolled in the program to 93% in 2013, up from 53% just three years ago. In addition, in 2012, Road Map Project partners competed in the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top competition. Only two groups were awarded the maximum grant possible. The Road Map Project partners were one of them. The $40 million they received infuses the initiative with significant new funding – and it provides evidence that the Road Map Project finds itself on the right path.


Featured Story: Partners for a Competitive Workforce

This short story is about Partners for a Competitive Workforce's impact on developing the workforce in Northern Kentucky, Indiana, and Cincinnati.

“We think of our role as being the gas and the glue.” With these few words, Ross Meyer, the former executive director of Partners for a Competitive Workforce (PCW), offers all current and future practitioners a fine conceptual model of what a backbone organization can be – in order to make a collective impact initiative all that it should be.

The gas: “we’re here to help accelerate the efforts – to accelerate the collaboration so that we can go farther faster.” PCW provides backbone support and leadership for a collective impact initiative of the same name, which formed in 2008 with the aim of closing the workforce skills gap in Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati and Indiana. As the backbone, PCW helps coordinate the efforts of more than 150 partner organizations in three states, keeping all stakeholders focused on their common agenda while helping to align worker development with employer demand. Since this alignment is constantly changing as gains are made, PCW makes a point of being highly flexible in regards to strategy, allowing it to achieve “quick wins” while simultaneously keeping the entire initiative relevant and vibrant.

The glue: “we are the backbone to hold all these efforts together.” Although PCW adheres closely to the five conditions of collective impact, it has found some of its greatest successes through its implementation of a shared measurement system – but these successes did not come easily, or quickly. Indeed, it took years for PCW just to get its partners to agree on outcomes, and to convince them that a continually-updated shared database would work to everyone’s benefit. Today, more than 100,000 client records are stored within that database, and PCW is not only able to look deeply into the data to see what types of services are leading to better outcomes, but also to see which interventions are coming up short, which allows successes to be built upon and roadblocks to be surmounted.

The gains: as PCW was beginning its work, fully 50% of area businesses were having difficulty finding high-quality talent in the local market, despite a regional unemployment rate approaching 9%. In the years since, nearly 6,500 workers have received training for in-demand jobs – and many of those workers have seen their annual income rise by as much as $9,000 per year.

“There are a lot of good things happening in our community. Our role is to provide leadership, resources and support” – and in so doing, a backbone organization allows its community to find its own solutions to its problems. Ross Meyer and PCW have laid the groundwork for future successes, and have proven how collective impact can change lives.


Featured Story: Memphis Fast Forward

This short story is about Memphis Fast Forward's work to increase prosperity in Greater Memphis.

They were the days when walking in Memphis meant watching your back. In 2005, this home of the blues was one of the most dangerous and challenging cities in America: a place where violent crime rates were soaring, K-12 student achievement outcomes were abysmal, and government expenditure growth was outpacing tax revenue growth. Key stakeholders in Greater Memphis had no intention of standing idly by in a sinking city – local mayors knew these challenges needed to be addressed and overcome; local business leaders knew it too. The will existed – what was needed was the way.

Memphis Fast Forward (MFF) arose from the interaction of those mayors and business leaders, and from the very beginning, participants laid out a clear path toward building their collective impact effort. MFF’s 20-member cross-sector steering committee finds a common agenda in making improvements in five different focus areas: education, jobs and economic development, crime and public safety, health and wellness, and government fiscal strength. MFF’s key insight was that these five focus areas are inextricably linked – as one of its leaders points out, “you can’t move education along if you don’t also deal with neighborhood safety…you can’t have economic development and jobs if you don’t manage the workforce” – and improvements in one area would have a cascading, positive effect across the others.

MFF’s structure mirrors this insight. Each focus area constitutes its own initiative, with each initiative having its own distinct backbone organization. Each initiative then cascades further into a linked team of cross-sector partners who work together to implement the initiative’s plan. The leader of each of the five initiatives, meanwhile, sits on MFF’s steering committee, giving MFF a decentralized but linked management structure. The leaders of the five initiatives make a point to meet regularly, use data to inform their work, share knowledge and celebrate successes – and there have been many to celebrate: since 2005, MFF has helped spur the creation of more than 17,000 new jobs, has saved local city and county taxpayers more than $75 million via improvements in government efficiency, has contributed to a 23% drop in violent crimes, a 31% drop in property crimes, and has helped advance a suite of dramatic K-12 education reforms that has put Memphis at ground zero for national reform. As a result, in 2013, Tennessee was ranked #1 among all states in the nation for K-12 education gains per the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP).

Tonight, as the sun goes down over the bars on Beale Street, the notes will turn blue as performers sing the old songs – while outside, on the boulevards and the avenues, along the banks of the Mississippi, the people of Greater Memphis are writing their new future.


Featured Story: Franklin County Communities that Care

This short story is about Frankin County Communities that Care's impact on youth substance abuse.

The place is Franklin County, Massachusetts. The year is 2003, and the kids are not all right. Teen substance abuse rates are disturbingly high, well above state and national averages: nearly half of all students between 8th and 12th grade are drinking alcohol; nearly 30% are smoking marijuana. Their parents, and their community, are putting their faith in a new initiative that they hope will turn the tide – and help their children heal.

The place is Franklin County, Massachusetts. The year is 2012, and the kids are doing fine.  Marijuana use is down nearly 30%, alcohol use is down 37%, and the number of teens who binge drink has been cut in half.  That new initiative, now a decade old, has proven its value to the community – and has proven the power of collective impact.

Founded in 2002, the Communities That Care Coalition (CTC) embraced the five conditions of collective impact from the very start, while understanding that implementation could be tailored to local realities and needs. CTC, for instance, has not one but two backbone organizations that jointly administer the initiative – a situation that CTC co-chair Kat Allen admits can at times be challenging, but it is one that she feels gives twice the credibility to the coalition: it makes the coalition a community endeavor rather than one agency’s project.

It is precisely this need to be flexible within the overall framework that informs Allen’s key insight as a practitioner: collective impact must be rigorous and disciplined, as well as organic and adaptive.  CTC finds a common agenda through its Community Action Plan – in Allen’s words: “there’s a policy, a program or a practice for everyone in our Plan…what is the piece that you can take on to make a difference?” The Plan moves the community forward by ensuring that all participants are focused on key outcomes that the coalition then measures and reports – namely, reductions in teen substance abuse and improvements in associated risk factors – but the Plan itself is seen as a living document, one that has been revised twice since 2005. Successful strategies are retained; unsuccessful strategies are amended; fresh strategies are introduced. It is complex and it is messy, but Allen would not have it any other way. Her advice: “embrace the mess, and make it work to your advantage” – your roadmap will be ever-changing, and your destination will draw ever-closer.

The place is Franklin County, Massachusetts. The year is 2013. CTC has been on this journey for 11 years – and its work is only just beginning.