Partnerships for Impact

As the world grows increasingly globalized, we should challenge the current assumptions and orthodoxies that bind us to the status quo and look for innovative approaches. Business as usual, or incremental solutions, will rarely solve massive challenges like the evolution of education and literacy that we are currently moving through. As an example, one in four adults globally lack the basic literacy skills that have become necessary to successfully operate in today’s world and many children lack access to an education that will prepare them for life in the 21st century. Trying to address these challenges with a single sector or organization approach is unlikely to make the sort of a lasting and sustainable impact we want.

While collaboration has occurred for thousands, if not millions of years, the study of effective complex partnerships is relatively recent. Out of this work, and deeper understanding of how complex partnerships work, the new role of partnership and innovation brokering has emerged. Collaborative Impact was established to provide support, increasing effectiveness, and impact of large-scale multi-stakeholder partnerships that address complex challenges.










Collaborative Impact is a social enterprise partnership that develops and manages highly effective cross-sector and multi-stakeholder partnerships with organizations from all sectors such as the Global Partnership for Education, European SchoolNet and UNESCO to collectively address major social and developmental challenges. They do this by supporting global leaders and change makers in partnership brokering, intermediation, measurement, and implementation of cross-sector partnerships.

CAAAn example of Collaborative Impact’s work is in improving measurement and assessment of complex skills in schools, which can help to address the 75 million youth who are unemployed worldwide. Currently there is an unparalleled gap between knowledge and skills acquired in school vs. knowledge and skills required to be successful in the workplace and community. The significant need to embed these skills in teaching and measurement culminated in the formation of the Collaborative Assessment Alliance (CAA). Through Collaborative Impact’s facilitation, Intel, Microsoft, Promethean and ETS partnered to establish CAA. CAA has the goal to improve the measurement of education systems to guide the teaching and learning of Deep Learning skills. The alliance offers a technical support team, portal and monthly web conferences to support the partner’s implementation of collaborative assessment tasks.

For many organizations the concept of partnering is often compelling. However the partnership approach comes with overheads that may not be evident in single organizational approaches. This means it may be best to consider a partnership approach as a last resort if the challenge or problem cannot be solved in any other way. It is in these situations that the added complexity and challenges are worth the effort to deliver new and innovative solutions that would not have otherwise been possible.

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Effective partnerships can be challenging to design, develop and manage, however research findings from the Partnership Brokers Association show that outcomes of cross-sector partnering are improved when one or more people take a brokering or intermediation role. To this effect, Collaborative Impact provides the resources and skills to take on the role, as well as promote the values and practices that accompany partnership brokering. This can lead to more effective, sustainable, and scalable results that can have a dramatic impact on a wide variety of challenges.

Social Innovator Wisdom: Partnering To Tip Systems

When developing solutions for complex systemic issues, social innovators know it is futile to operate in silos.

“We act like systems in creating large-scale problems but we act like individuals in trying to solve them” – Eric Trist, Social Scientist and Co-Founder of the Tavistock Institute

In a recent talk, Dan Hill of Helsinki Design Lab explains that ‘wicked’ or complex problems are unclear and interdependent, with no client to take responsibility “except the entire human race”. We are very much all in this together, so what better way to take a whole-system approach and pull in wisdom from different perspectives/stakeholders than via partnerships.

(image via Western Washington University)

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