How the World Should Work

Programs and services have helped lots of people. But they seldom produce lasting solutions or address the full scale of need. We operate in silos, which walls off using complementary strategies and resources. We want to be all in this together, but it is practically irresistible not to place our own organizations or ideologies or theories above others. We are swamped with information, but struggle to make sense of it or put it to good use. Clearly, it’s time to change our approach.

This Alliance believes that collective impact is a better way to solve enduring, hard problems. We have seen it work in communities – large and small – that have certain core principles and characteristics. Here is how the Alliance defines them.

  • Communities of progress act on the belief that major change can be achieved even on issues that have long appeared intractable due to their complexity.
  • Communities of progress have an understanding of what binds them together – their values, interests and shared story. They draw on that understanding to shape a vision of how, together, they will make the community a better place to live.
  • Communities of progress create causes: shared efforts to achieve a better future. They put people’s interests first – before the interests of institutions, before the interests of sectors or systems, before the interests of political groups, before the dictates of ideologies. This opens the door wide for collaboration aimed at results of interest to all.
  • Communities of progress pursue a vision of progress for all of their members (rather than just individual groups). Inclusion is a core value.
  • Communities of progress set specific, bold, measurable goals for themselves. These create a sense of purpose and urgency, and have a powerful effect in motivating effort, guiding action, and measuring progress.
  • Communities of progress are informed by relevant data, knowledge of their assets, and a deep understanding of their members’ perspectives and aspirations.
  • Communities of progress seek, and draw upon, the perspectives, talents and efforts of a wide variety of influencers – from elected officials to institutional leaders to residents and their informal leaders. They recognize what people of diverse backgrounds have to offer (first-hand experience, professional expertise, civic clout, community mobilization, etc.), place a high value on these contributions, and are deliberate and organized in engaging them. They ask: What do potential partners have to gain that is of such value (financial, political, regulatory compliance, mission advancement, etc.) that it merits contributing time and resources to the cause? And what can they contribute that is thoroughly consistent with their interests and capacities?
  • Communities of progress realize that large-scale change is rarely achieved by any single program or strategy, no matter how effective. As a result, they work on multiple fronts, focusing on what will have the greatest impact. Recognizing that change can be incremental, they are persistent and undeterred by setbacks. Finally, they are adaptive, so they can respond to lessons learned – including failures – or emerging changes in their environment.
  • Communities of progress are not captives to rigid funding streams or modes of working. They are aware of the variety of resources they have available to them and, having placed their focus on specific goals, are willing to determine how those resources can best be developed and employed to further their attainment.
  • Communities of progress answer the question, “Why is now a time when progress can and must be achieved?” They don’t simply focus on the negative aspects of the answer. (“We have a big problem that’s getting worse.”) They emphasize the positive: how local conditions are making the community more receptive to new solutions; how consensus has emerged around a clear plan of action; how there is evidence of new approaches that are proving effective against difficult problems. This balance allows them to convey the urgency their communities need to act with the promise of progress that will engage their best efforts.