Learning snapshot

Let's Talk Collective Impact: Amplifying Your Project's Reach Through Collaboration

Time to discover the wonders of collective impact! The powerful approach is about creating a co-ordinated effort between multiple organisations from various sectors to drive positive social change on a larger scale.

Melanie Bainbridge

Senior Manager, Knowledge & Insights

07 June 2024


Why go it alone when you can go further together?

In the realm of social change, there's a powerful approach that often gets overshadowed by the allure of individual achievement: collective impact. Imagine you have a promising initiative aimed at tackling a pressing social issue. Now, imagine its reach and effectiveness amplified through strategic collaboration. This isn't just a hopeful theory; it's a proven model where constructive collaboration not only enhances impact but also attracts substantial interest from funders and partners alike. Welcome to the world of collective impact, where joining forces is the secret to making a more significant difference.



The essentials of collective impact

Collective impact isn't about casual partnerships or alliances. It's a structured, strategic approach involving multiple organisations from various sectors working together to tackle complex social problems. According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, this model operates on five foundational principles:

1. Common Agenda: All participants need to be on the same page, which means agreeing on the overall mission and vision for the project.

2. Shared Measurement: Success must be measurable. By implementing unified metrics, all stakeholders can track progress and outcomes efficiently.

3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities: Each organisation’s efforts should complement and enhance the efforts of others, creating a sum greater than its parts.

4. Continuous Communication: Keeping channels open and maintaining regular communication helps build trust and aligns efforts.

5. Backbone Support: A lead organisation or dedicated team coordinates the initiative, ensuring consistency and stability.

These elements ensure that collective impact is more than just a coalition; it's a powerhouse of coordinated effort aimed at large-scale social change.

Why outcomes-based funders love collective impact

From a funder’s perspective, collective impact projects are goldmines. They represent a high potential for sustainable, significant community impact—an appealing prospect for outcomes-based funders. Such initiatives indicate readiness to tackle complex issues not just at the surface but in depth. Funders are drawn to projects that can commit to extensive reach and lasting change; attributes powerfully present in collective impact efforts.

These projects also demonstrate an ability to efficiently apply resources by minimising overlap and redundancy between organisations. This operational efficiency is particularly attractive to funders looking to maximise the impact of their investments.

Beyond funding: the intangible benefits of collaboration

The benefits of adopting a collective impact approach extend beyond the allure of increased funding.

Here are a few intangible benefits that can elevate your project:

1. Increased Credibility: Collaborating with respected partners can bolster your project's reputation and trustworthiness.

2. Enhanced Resource Sharing: Access to a broader pool of resources, from expert knowledge to technology and more, can supercharge your project’s capabilities.

3. Policy Influence: A united front can be more effective in advocacy, influencing practices, policies, and legislation.

4. Community Engagement: Engaging a wide array of stakeholders can improve insights into community need and boost public support.


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Navigating the challenges: not easy, but worth it


Implementing a collective impact approach is not without its challenges. Achieving consensus on a common agenda can be tough, especially when organisations with diverse cultures and priorities are involved. Effective communication is crucial and often requires sophisticated systems to manage.

Resource allocation can also pose significant challenges. Collective impact initiatives require sustained investment, which means convincing funders and partners of the long-term value and potential for success of the project. Additionally, tracking progress with shared metrics can be complex but is essential for transparency and ongoing improvement.

Maintaining momentum and adapting to changes in leadership or strategy also require robust management and a flexible approach. Despite these challenges, the collective benefits significantly outweigh the hurdles, making the effort and resources invested into collective impact worthwhile.


Real-world success stories

There are several notable examples of successful collective impact projects both in Australia and internationally that highlight the powerful outcomes of this collaborative approach.

In Australia, notable projects include Logan Together in Queensland, Grow 21 in Victoria, and Imagined Futures in Western Australia, among others. These projects illustrate how collective impact frameworks can drive significant social changes through coordinated multi-sector collaboration​. For instance, Logan Together focuses on improving the well-being of children in Logan from birth to the age of eight by bringing together health services, education, and community groups to create better systems that support families and children​.

Another inspiring Australian example is the Justice Reinvestment in Bourke, New South Wales, which has aimed to reduce incarceration rates and improve social outcomes by involving local communities in justice processes and decision-making. This initiative reflects a broader application of the collective impact model, addressing systemic issues through community-led solutions​.

Internationally, Strive Together in the USA is a standout example where this approach has been used to help communities improve education outcomes. This network supports localised efforts to build and sustain improvements across educational systems by using data-driven methods and continuous improvement​.

In the health sector, the use of collective impact in Aboriginal health services in Australia has led to substantial improvements in service delivery and health outcomes. One such project focused on improving oral health in rural and remote NSW communities. It proved how aligning various health service providers under a common agenda and with mutual reinforcement activities can significantly improve health access and outcomes​ (PHRP)​.

So, as you can see, the collective impact model can address complex social issues effectively by fostering deep collaboration across different sectors and stakeholders. Each case shows the potential for scalable social change when diverse groups unite around a shared goal and systematically work towards it.

The path forward: embrace collaboration for greater impact

The call to action is clear: if you want your next project to lead to lasting change, consider the collective impact model. By doing so, you not only multiply your project's effectiveness but also enhance its appeal to funders and stakeholders. In the quest for meaningful social change, embracing collaboration could very well be your most strategic move.

So, before you launch your next initiative, or apply for your next grant, think about the potential partners who could amplify your impact. Look for organisations that share your vision and can bring new strengths to the table.

Remember, in the world of social change, coming together can mean the difference between making a ripple and creating a wave. With collective impact, you’re not just adding resources; you're multiplying them. So, let's not just add; let's multiply. Let's not just go far; let's go further—together.

  • Author: Melanie Bainbridge

    Melanie Bainbridge is a writer, sustainability professional, multi-arts professional and social impact advocate. Mel melds 20+ years of strategy, policy, project management and community engagement experience with communications and creative development skills to create inspiring impact narratives. Melanie is currently Senior Manager Knowledge & Insights, Lotterywest.


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Acknowledgement of Country

The Western Australian Community Impact Hub acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are based, the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation and extends that respect to all the Traditional Owners and Elders of this country. We recognise the significant importance of their cultural heritage, values and beliefs and how these contribute to the positive health and wellbeing of the whole community.