Over the last several months I’ve been hearing a lot about “collective impact.” This is the idea that social change can be more deeply rooted and successful if there is a coordinated effort to bring together dozens of organizations through a broad cross-sector approach around a shared agenda. Simply stated, by working collectively we can make a greater impact.
The Winter 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, written by Mark Kramer and John Kania, is aptly titled Collective Impact and it provides the best overview of how this movement is helping communities create meaningful reform around education, health, and welfare issues.
The assumption is that large-scale efforts require multiple stakeholders. What sets collective impact apart from other collaboratives is that the collective impact effort builds a central infrastructure, has a dedicated staff, and holds a shared agenda as well as a system of measuring outcomes. The “collective” is about many and diverse entities working together with a common goal.
A quick Google search brings up dozens of references to articles and websites that describe how collective impact efforts have supported social change.
Locally we’ve talked in some arts education circles about how we might use a collective impact approach to create a better system for educating our children. I’m always interested in arts education being at the table when discussions about education reform take place but so often, it’s not on anyone’s radar except the arts organizations that are dancing as fast as they can to provide programs in schools to fill in gaps or enhance district efforts.
We know that the arts are part of the solution for ensuring that students have a well-rounded education that prepares them to be productive adults in a democratic society. How do we move arts education from being a whole bunch of individual partnerships in schools working to ensure students get it at all, and advocating alone, to participating in or even initiating a broader collective effort to support education reform in a community?
Is the only way to get to the table to build the table ourselves?
What does it mean for a diverse set of collaborators to “share an agenda” and can we arts education advocates participate in a shared agenda that might not be first and foremost about arts education?
When I think about how hard we advocate to keep arts in the curriculum, I wonder, can we check our initial “arts for arts sake” assumptions at the door or let go of our drive to only advocate for standards-based curriculum the way we see it, to adopt a shared agenda in which we are one of three dozen groups in a collective and the goal is more broadly defined?
I’d welcome your thoughts…