As increasingly complex challenges continue to arise, it has become ever more critical to strive towards a common target. The United Nations Member States established 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, presenting a “shared blueprint” and an “urgent call for action by all countries.” The SDGs cover many of the most pressing issues that exist in our world today, and aspire to meet highly ambitious objectives such as “no poverty,” “zero hunger,” and “quality education for all.” 

While these goals may appear as elusive or overwhelming, they become progressively feasible if they are carried out under strong global action and cooperation. This concept is embodied by Goal 17, partnerships for the goals, which seeks to ”revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.” In order to achieve large-scale social change, it is crucial to promote and stimulate collective impact.

Collective impact is a concept that is regularly explored by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, who have gradually embraced it as a “pillar of social change.” During the past ten years, they have published many great articles explaining the practice, covering everything from cross-sector coordination to the structured and methodical processes involved. 

Throughout the decade, SSIR has pointed out the shortcomings of isolated intervention within the social sector, and explained the need for a collective effort in order to tackle the most complex issues of our day. Collective impact is not easy to achieve, and a series of circumstances must take place for it to lead to powerful results. 

In the 2011 article, Collective Impact, John Kania and Mark Kramer explain “The Five Conditions of Collective Success,” justifying the need for “a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support organizations.” In a follow-up article, Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work, the authors expand the understanding of collective impact and describe: “How do we begin? How do we create alignment? And, How do we sustain the initiative?” 

Collective impact can be highly effective in achieving large-scale progress, but it may also lead to disappointing results if communities lack an understanding of the “civic infrastructure” necessary to implement the approach. Filling the Gaps in Collective Impact points out nine supporting activities that communities must keep in mind when striving for systems change, such as maintaining a shared vision, ensuring partner commitment, or retaining community engagement. In its 2017 article, Collective Impact Without Borders, SSIR expands on ways to apply the practice against a wide range of geographies and cultures, revealing the conditions that must be present to address a systematic issue in a foreign country. 

Collective impact represents a “fundamentally different, more disciplined, and higher performing approach to achieving large-scale social impact.” As the concept is further explored and put into practice, it paves way for renewed optimism, uniting hundreds of organizations under a shared vision for change.