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The role of the backbone organisation in collective impact approaches

As we started out in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock we have been learning from other children’s neighbourhood approaches, where there is a lot of emphasis on the role of the ‘backbone organisation’. The idea behind this is to have a central impartial body to support the neighbourhood approach and the collaborations to achieve this. Here in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock, the backbone role is fulfilled by the Planning Group, led by the University of Glasgow and Education Services at Glasgow City Council, with the Glasgow Centre for Population Health and What Works Scotland.

Of course, in a project that’s looking at how services are delivered, having a backbone organisation that isn’t a service provider might seem a bit odd. Our local partners have been keen to know what the Children’s Neighbourhood approach offered, if it’s not adding additional services or programmes to existing service delivery. The crucial element here is that it’s an impartial body, with a role in supporting and enabling – rather than delivering.

In the literature on collective impact, there are four conditions that the backbone organisation should be supporting, in order for collective impact to happen. These are: creating and maintaining shared measurement systems and a common agenda, brokering continuous communication, and supporting mutually reinforcing activities. We are trying to achieve these conditions through a number of different activities: providing evidence, convening dialogue; building networks; supporting pilots and linking back to policy.

collective impact siagram

http://www.collaborationforimpact.com/collective-impact/

Have a look at the diagram below which lays out the different parts of the role. Are there gaps where you can see Children’s Neighbourhoods playing a role to help you achieve more for children and young people? What would you like to see us doing more of?

new-piktochart-_27541823 (2)

There are some common misconceptions of a backbone organisation, some which we have experienced ourselves and some which similar initiatives have experienced.

  • The backbone organisation sets the agenda for the group
  • The backbone organisation drives the solutions
  • The backbone organisation receives all the funding
  • That the role of backbone isn’t fundamentally different from “business as usual” in terms of staffing, time, and resources

We will use our time and resource to support our neighbourhood to have an even bigger impact on the lives of children and young people. 2018 will see big conversations and exciting plans and we’re very much looking forward to working with you to achieve success.

Lizzie Leman (Knowledge Exchange and Impact Officer)

Jessica Watson (Knowledge Exchange and Community Engagement Officer, Social Research Hub)

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