GCO’s Breakthrough Communities initiative is modeled, in part, on the collective impact framework developed by the Strive Partnership in Cincinnati, OH.  Over the past few months we have participated in numerous opportunities to learn from Strive, most recently we attended Strive Together’s third annual Cradle-to-Career Network Convening, in Dallas, TX.

To kick the convening off Jeff Edmondson, Strive Together Managing Director, shared a  list of “Knowledge Nuggets” that he had gathered over his years of work in the world of educational collective impact.  Below are a few that resonated with the work that is taking place in our first Breakthrough Community, Peachtree Corners & Norcross.

 

“I don’t care where it lives, I care how it behaves.” 

One of the first questions I was asked at the convening was, “Where do you live?” To which, I answered “Buford, GA.”   The woman asking the question was quick to clarify what she was asking, “No, What is your anchor entity?  Where does your partnership live?”    Now I get it.  I shared briefly about GCO and how it is serving to support the Breakthrough PCN initiative.   This really framed this Knowledge Nugget for me.  One axiomatic realization from the Convening is that there is no normal for cradle to career partnerships.   Some “live” in universities, others in United Ways, some in community foundations,  a cohort are backed by chambers of commerce.  The bottom line is that it should not matter what organization is serving as an anchor entity or backbone support role, what matters is behavior – how successfully is the partnership achieving its collective impact goals.

 

“There is a difference between engaged and committed.”

This resonated with me immediately.  Of course, as one sits across a table from a community leader and brings up the topic of education the leader will be engaged in the conversation.  Often community leaders will even be very excited about the efforts that are developing.  However, what keeps the wheels of collective impact turning is not engagement, but undoubtedly, commitment.  The process simply requires an organizational trust and vulnerability that all but prohibits success without the true long-term commitment of all involved parties.

 

“Action looks different now.”

Why must you be committed?  Because, inevitably, this process is going to open your eyes to ways that action is going to change.  Whether you are a funder who has to learn to look past outputs to true measurable outcomes, a non-profit who realizes that a program is ineffective and must be modified or eliminated, or maybe a business who realizes that the true battle ground for work force development is not what you expected – action looks different.  There is no room in collective impact for a program that doesn’t push an indicator. Collective impact depends upon continuous improvement, and always pushing toward what proves to be the best solution.   It was clear in discussions with partnership directors from around the country that action does look different now.

 

Through efforts to begin developing a collective impact here in the Norcross and Peachtree Corners communities, we are seeing the truth of these simple quotes lived out, and learning how deeply interconnected they are.  The reality is, what matters about an intervention or support program is not who provides it or where it is offered – what should be the bottom line is its efficacy.    However, growing that perspective requires some collaboration, which will demand the commitment of involved parties.  Ultimately, as this starts to happen action will begin to look very different – and hopefully fare more successful!