Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland is working with partners and local people in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock to improve services, resources, opportunities and chances for the children and young people who live there. By working in partnership across the community, Children’s Neighbourhoods aims to build on the good work and investment already happening locally and to place a greater focus on making sure efforts across a range of services and support systems are joined up, co-ordinated and delivered better for children and families in the communities in which they live. An ambitious aim, how do we plan to do this?
The Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland approach and ways of working are underpinned by the idea of ‘collective impact’. This concept was first introduced by John Kania and Mark Kramer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011 where they defined it as “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem.” page 36 In the review they describe several examples of highly structured collaborative efforts that had achieved substantial impact on a large scale social problem. Since the review article was published, collective impact has been adopted across the world as an effective form of cross-sector collaboration to address complex social and environmental challenges.
So simply put, collective impact (aims to) bring people together, in a structured way, to achieve social change. It is based on the belief that no single policy, government department, organisation or programme can create the type of outcomes needed to generate real and lasting social change and tackle the increasingly complex problems we face as a society. It also importantly recognises that that not all problems are created equal – some are simple, some are more complicated, and some are truly complex – from baking a cake, to building a rocket to raising a child, and each type requires different approaches to solving them.
So what does this approach looks like and are we already doing it?
The concept of collective impact hinges on the idea that in order for organisations to create lasting solutions to social problems on a large-scale, they need to coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal. This approach is placed in contrast to “isolated impact,” where organisations primarily work with individuals, and on their own, to try to tackle complex social problems individuals may be encountering. In our view, within Scotland we are at a position whereby individual impact is common, and in our leading Local Authorities we see coordinated impact. In Bridgeton and Dalmarnock we are fortunate to be working with a number of highly motivated, talented, experienced and knowledgeable third sector and statutory partners and examples of coordinated impact and excellent partnership working are clear. However, we argue that the development of a Children’s Neighbourhoods in the area will give further focus and effort on our shared abilities to deliver collective impact with coordinated action across local services by shifting
change and improvement efforts from collaboration to a deeper level of partnership.
By working collectively in this way across the community, we are already seeing a commitment from a number of organisations towards supporting a common agenda and a move to aligning their efforts to ensure that improving life chances and opportunities for children and young people are at the centre of what do. We are working with organisations in an innovative and structured way to agree a set of measurable goals, to support them to coordinate their actions effectively to achieve these goals and to share learning.
Five key conditions have been identified from practice, experience and evidence that need to be in place to achieve collective impact. These conditions guide our work. These include:
Three pre-conditions have also been identified to help galvanise collaborative efforts and to help create the environment for successful action, including the need for inspirational and influential leadership and local champions, resourcing to sustain activity and importantly agreement on a need for change. From our early and ongoing work with partners, we think that we now have these in establishing conditions in place.
So where are we now and what’s next? We are making good progress in setting the ground work for local action and activities in response to what local people tells us matter to them, working with local partners, engaging with children and families through the local schools and establishing ourselves as the’ Backbone Organisation’ for the initiative. Through this role we will bring staff and skills to support participating organisations, guide the vision, seek investment and place a focus on communications, data and research and evaluation.
We will continue to share our learning and reflections from our experiences, action and embedding a collective impact approach locally – we hope you will join us on the journey. If you would like to get involved please get in touch.
Programme Manager GCPH