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Collective Impact: Theory Versus Reality

By Melinda Mechur Karp & Valerie Lundy-Wagner
Collective Impact: Theory Versus Reality

Collective impact is an increasingly popular approach to addressing persistent social problems, but such strategic, cross-sector collaboration is challenging. This brief draws on the experiences of five committed collective impact communities participating in the Ford Foundation’s Corridors to College Success initiative to expose some of the practical obstacles to translating the theory of collective impact into action.

The authors highlight three major challenges faced by Corridors stakeholders: developing a shared understanding of collective impact work, maintaining organizational competencies in a coordinated system, and using data to support collective impact work. They also consider whether the incentives for collective impact are sufficient to drive the work despite the funding and capacity constraints faced by participating organizations. Thus, the brief provides a lens for understanding why well-intentioned collective impact efforts may not take root.

Associated Project(s)

Corridors of College Success