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The Collective Impact Chronicle, Chapter 1: Transformational Change

Transformational change: Moving from Advocacy to Collaboration -- A new way of working as community

Coordination of effort is a step in the right direction. When we coordinate our work in a community we can say our work is “collective.”  Coordination, however, does not necessarily require that we shift our own agendas to be compatible with other agendas and that creates a challenge for effective collective impact.

Collaboration with others -- a step beyond coordination -- takes us one step closer to effective collective impact and often produces added value. When we collaborate -- and do it effectively -- we incorporate multiple perspectives and this approach returns a wiser and more refined solution. 

Here is the challenging part: Many organizations carry an advocacy agenda. These organizations are usually created specifically to carry out very targeted missions. Examples include advocacy organization for the right to choose life and the right to have an abortion, advocates for public education, advocates for mass transit, advocates for healthcare reform, and more.  Advocates are passionate about their mission and are not usually in the business of compromise, and especially not usually in the business of leaving their agendas at the door when entering the “collaboration room." This is especially true when they are collaborating outside their issue area or within their issue area but with an opposing viewpoint.  Where then do they learn the skills needed to effectively collaborate with others? And, how do they become motivated to do so?

When groups collaborate, reaching the best solution happens when all involved in the discussion are willing to bring their own ideas to the table and also to incorporate the ideas of others. It is important for all to listen and value the perspective of others. It is important to be transparent.  It is important for all ideas to be respected and considered.

As outsiders, we have observed this transformation at the community scale in Rockford, Illinois. When Alignment first began to work with Rockford in 2009, we observed tightly-held agendas from the social, philanthropic, business, and education sectors, and community efforts toward change uniformly floundered. Today, community members meet regularly and are achieving systemic change as a community. The transformation is dramatic. From the incredible redesign of their high schools to real collaboration early childhood education, the change in real in Rockford. 

To follow their progress, visit www.alignmentrockford.org

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