Want to Achieve Collective Impact? Accept That There Is an “I” in Team

Want to Achieve Collective Impact? Accept That There Is an “I” in Team

In order to achieve impact at scale, individual actions are an essential part of the mix.

Nancy Zimpher, SUNY Chancellor and a pioneer of collective impact, reflects on the role of the individual in this collaborative approach to change. This post originally appeared on Striving For Change, the StriveTogether Blog on February 9, 2016.

Based on my experience over the last few decades working on collective impact, I know that the saying “There is no ‘I’ in team” is right only some of the time. Here’s why.

Collective impact is a concept that caught fire about five years ago based on work I collaborated on as president of the University of Cincinnati and following the same-titled article published by the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011. Collective impact is most simply defined as the phenomenon that occurs when community partners work together, using data, to improve specific community-level outcomes. The results of our flagship work, the Strive Partnership in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and the national StriveTogether Network, are extremely promising. And we have learned a lot along the way.

To date, most of the work related to collective impact has focused on the first word: collective. Communities focus on how to bring partners together, how to create the “backbone” of the work, and perhaps most importantly, how to engage a broad set of voices that are far too often not heard. This work requires a selfless mentality where partners embrace what is best for the community as a whole as opposed to what is best for their own institution. As a result they are able to achieve critical agreement on a vision and outcomes and begin to identify priorities. This is the foundation for success.

But once the foundation is set, we need to shift the focus to the impact. It’s here that we start to see there really is an “I” in team. We are now realizing that in order to achieve impact at scale, it will come down to individuals changing their behavior to achieve a community-level goal…

Read the full post on Striving for Change, the Strive Together Blog.


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