Tension between Convergence and Divergence

In collective impact, coming to consensus on vision and goals is like a dance held in the tension between convergence and divergence.  Partners choose to come together to solve a difficult problem but they can come from such different places and purposes it is hard work to identify the common ground and then navigate the differences.  That, however, is where the beauty of collective impact lies, mining those in-between spaces to find a whole new expression of how to reach the goals.

It’s also our experience that the same kind of creative tension exists between intentionality and emergence.  Goals certainly must be intentional in order to maintain a clear focus on the way forward.  And the means of measuring that progress must be intentional and agreed upon during the planning of any initiative.  But what collective impact is showing us is that there is room between intentionality and emergence – where new insights, new opportunities, even complementary goals, can arise.  Hewing to goals is important, but not at the expense of a better solution or better result that can emerge as the work progresses.

A number of years ago I worked with a project focused on providing coordinated services to families of children with disabilities in the far east of Russia. The broad vision was that children with disabilities would live at home with their parents, and families would receive the necessary supports and early interventions to care for their children. The norm at that time was to institutionalize children when they were diagnosed with a disability—virtually any disability. [Read more…]