When the Process Becomes the Solution
We have found in both our research and consulting that those who hope to launch collective impact efforts often expect that the process begins by finding solutions that a collective set of actors can agree upon. In fact, developing a common agenda is not about creating solutions at all, but about achieving a common understanding of the problem, agreeing to joint goals to address the problem, and arriving at common indicators to which the collective set of involved actors will hold themselves accountable in making progress. It is the process that comes after the development of the common agenda in which solutions and resources are uncovered, agreed upon, and collectively taken up. Those solutions and resources are quite often not known in advance. They are typically emergent, arising over time through collective vigilance, learning, and action that result from careful structuring of the effort. If the structure-specific steps we have discussed here are thoughtfully implemented, we believe that there is a high likelihood that effective solutions will emerge, though the exact timing and nature cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty. This, of course, is a very uncomfortable state of being for many stakeholders.
And yet staying with this discomfort brings many rewards.
A previously unnoticed evidence-based practice, movement, or resource from outside the community is identified and applied locally.Local individuals or organizations begin to work together differently than before and therefore find and adopt new solutions.A successful strategy that is already working locally, but is not systematically or broadly practiced, is identified and spread more widely.