News & Update

Navigating Collective Impact through a Mayoral Transition

Lessons and resources from Albuquerque around sustaining cross-sector work through a mayoral transition.

On Wednesday 5/15, Living Cities and Albuquerque, NM cross-sector leadership will present at the Collective Impact Forum. Their session titled “Navigating Collective Impact through a Mayoral Transition” will take place on from 10:30 – 11:45 AM CT. Follow along and join the conversation using #CIConvening and @CIForumTweets, and in the meantime read their reflections:

Leadership transitions within institutions are always difficult to navigate. That is particularly true for cross-sector initiatives, and even more so when the transitioning leader is the city mayor. The transition raises many questions early on for the cross-sector table, the institutions around the table, and the people who have dedicated a great deal of heart, sweat, and tears into the work.

Last year, Living Cities shared a tool, “Managing Mayoral Transitions,” created by Demetric Duckett and Marlon Williams in collaboration with The Integration Initiative (TII) Directors, all of whom had recently experienced or were in the midst of a mayoral transition in their cities. In 2018, our reflections and lessons were focused on the 18-24 months before the transition, during, and immediately after the transition; often another 12 months after the new Mayor enters their new role of power.

It is now just over 12 months since the TII cities experienced mayoral change, and we are reflecting on the learnings and experiences over the last year.

Define Roles Together

As a part of our Results-Based Accountability work, we often talk about our individual “B/ART’s,” Boundaries of Authority, Role and Task. Creating the space to discuss the “why” and “how” you will work together is key for creating and maintaining relationships, building trust, navigating and working through power dynamics. Defining the specific B/ART of each person and institution at the table is especially critical during a time of transition and greater ambiguity.

Collective impact initiatives are, by design, emergent. Adding change in leadership within the public sector–which houses so many of the resources in a place–it is critical that everyone knows their own and each other’s B/ART in service of the shared goal. Transitions or anticipated transitions are an opportunity to expand, contract or modify stakeholders’ B/ART’s, including your own.

Trust. Lean into the relationships you built, including with your funders.

Relationships are currency, so we want to invest in those relationships and get the most of out of them in service of our goals, or shared result. First and foremost, building trust is critical to being able to leverage relationships, take big risks, and come out stronger. Seems so simple, but without trust you can’t have difficult conversations.

In your cross-sector initiative, you have spent years building the trust and relationships with your partners and among the institutions at the table. You have also included many people at different levels of the local public sector. Rely on those relationships during this time.

Everyone has a role to play, and funders don’t want to step on toes or get in the way. When needed, though, ask them to lend the power and influence that funding can bring. Find ways to use those investing financially in the city as advocates and for cover when necessary.


Mayoral transitions are long, both with respect to time and emotional labor. That labor takes a physical toll on us as practitioners, especially people of color who are forced within white institutional cultures to carry extra burdens throughout their lives, not just at work.

The transition process will test the patience of the initiative leaders and the community, as individuals and as a collective. Being patient during this time with the people you have been working with and with yourself is critical.

Identify how to care for yourself so you can show up with the patience necessary for the work.

Things we have found helpful include:

Take care of yourself. This is not a sprint, or marathon; this is a relay race. Sit down when you need a rest and know that your teammates are there to keep the team going.


Start early. Anticipate the change and be prepared for it. Pay attention to election platforms and start figuring out which goals overlap between departments and organizations to build a common agenda together. Non-appointed personnel are key to the transition – they are typically there before the elected official and will usually be there after their term. Educate the new administration– not just the elected official– as often as possible. And when the transition happens, give them some breathing room. It can take time for a new administration to figure out how they are going to launch; be ready to provide support when needed.

Hand them some wins.

Give your elected official some ways to publicly support the work and highlight ways it advances the administration’s priorities. Invite them to speak at high-profile events related to your initiative. New leaders have a lot of ambition and drive to do what they campaigned on and what they believe is right but can have people around them who have worked with previous administrations. Give them an easy way to plug in.

Take care of yourself.

Collective impact is complex and difficult work and can be emotionally draining. Find your allies, create a coalition with each other and your funders, and find intersections with other leaders who can be trusted advisors. This work is personal for many of us, particularly if you are a person of color or come from the community your work is focused on. At the same time, to care for ourselves we have to find a healthy place to not take the work personally as individual people.


Upcoming Presentation: Living Cities and Albuquerque, NM cross-sector leadership will present at the Collective Impact Forum May 14 – 16, 2019 in Chicago. Our session titled “Navigating Collective Impact through a Mayoral Transition” will take place on Wednesday, 5/15/2019, from 10:30 – 11:45 AM CT. Follow along and join the conversation using #CIConvening and @CIForumTweets!

Want to read more perspectives on Mayoral Transitions?

Blog: Surviving the Transition

Additional insights and input from: Synthia Jaramillo, Director and Jennifer Walters, Assistant to the DIrector at City of Albuquerque Economic Development Department, Maggie Newman, Project Manager at City Alive, Tara Gohr, President & CEO at The Grant PLant, Inc, and Megan McGlinchey, Associate, Marlon Williams, Assistant Director, Demetric Duckett, Associate Director at Living Cities.

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