Saturday, October 31, 2015

Collective Impact, Backbone Organizations and System Leadership

This last week, on October 29, 2015, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and Social Venture Partners Dallas, held their yearly bigBANG! This conference, "serves the citizens of Dallas by convening national and local experts to share ideas in innovation and social impact. These ideas spark into action, thus making 'doing good' better." It was held, once again, at Paul Quinn College, headed by the innovative Michael Sorrell. 

Michael Sorrell
(Courtesy of BigBANG!)
The conference featured so many great thinkers and great ideas, as it does every year. What stood out to me is that they really shined a spotlight on a concept we at MDHA talk about a lot, Collective Impact. It even featured the "father" of Collective Impact, Dr. John Kania. He spoke to the entire conference, and he also led a breakout session. We encourage you to educate yourself about this important concept, which there is no way to do justice to in a short piece. In a nutshell, what Collective Impact tells us is that real change does not come from the work of one more organization, with one more great idea. Real change comes out of organizations working together in a methodical fashion, following five essential concepts. One of these concepts is that the Collective Impact needs to be supported by a Backbone Organization.

John Kania
(Courtesy of BigBANG!)
Opening Doors, the national strategic plan to end homelessness, which we have highlighted here before, adopted these ideas, recognizing that making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring, will not happen if organizations work on their own. It won't even happen through superficial collaboration, which is NOT the same thing as Collective Impact. And, it won't happen without each community transforming the role of its Continuum of Care into an engine of Collective Impact, with its lead organization (here in Dallas - MDHA) into a true Backbone Organization.

Kania's breakout session introduced the new building block that sits atop the structure of Collective Impact, which he, Dr. Hal Hamilton and Dr. Peter Senge highlighted in a recent article. This concept is
System Leadership. What Kania first colorfully demonstrated in this fascinating session was what it is NOT. System Leadership is not about top down and/or centralized management. Instead, it is about bottom up and diffuse action throughout the system. It is key to the success of Collective Impact, and fits with the pithy observation about Collective Impact, that it is all about silver buckshot, not a silver bullet.

We encourage you to take a moment, and click through the links above to learn more about Collective Impact, Backbone Organizations, and System Leadership. Then click through to our
CoC Strategic Work Plan, and ask yourself, how can you support our Collective Impact, right here in Dallas and Collin Counties, to operationalize ending homelessness. You too can be part of what Kania, Hamilton and Senge call "co-creating the future." 

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