Enough for All is Calgary’s community-driven poverty reduction strategy based on 15,000 hours of consultation with citizens, the business community, government, non-profits, and academia.
VCC Relationship/Approach of Collective Impact/Partners
In January 2015, under a four-year agreement between The City of Calgary, United Way of Calgary & Area, Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC) and Momentum, stewardship of the strategy’s implementation moved from the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative (CPRI) Secretariat within The City of Calgary into the community, under the stewardship of VCC.
These four groups agreed to utilize a Collective Impact Approach wherein VCC was appointed the role of the backbone organization to support the community in this work.
In May 2019, a three-year agreement was signed by The City of Calgary, the United Way of Calgary and Area, Momentum, and Vibrant Communities Calgary to mark the continued implementation of the strategy in partnership with the community and jointly supported and funded by The City of Calgary and United Way of Calgary and Area. Vibrant Communities Calgary will continue its role as the backbone organization stewarding the implementation of the strategy.
The Enough for All poverty reduction strategy uses the collective impact model to guide its process, engagement, implementation, and to maximize the result of the collective efforts towards poverty reduction in Calgary.
So, what is collective impact anyway? Collective impact is the commitment of groups from different sectors to a common agenda, for solving a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration.
There are five conditions that must be in place for collective impact efforts to be successful:
Creating and guiding collective impact requires a separate organization with staff and a specific set of skills to serve as the backbone for the entire initiative and coordinate participating organizations and agencies. Vibrant Communities Calgary serves as the backbone organization to the Enough for All strategy.
Consistent and open communication is needed across the many players to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and create common motivation.
Participant activities must be differentiated while still being coordinated through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.
Collecting data and measuring results consistently across all participants ensures efforts remain aligned and participants hold each other accountable. A group of Calgary researchers and evaluators have come together to determine how we can create shared measurement systems to measure the progress towards our common agenda.
All participants have a shared vision for change including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it though agreed upon actions. In the case of Enough for All: the common agenda is reducing poverty by 30 percent by 2023.
When VCC assumed the guiding role for the implementation of the Enough for All strategy, it assumed collective impact precondition number five, the role of the backbone organization.
Backbone organizations guide the vision and strategy: The backbone organization exists to help everyone involved to see the “site line” to the overall vision of the strategy and aspirational goals of the strategy.
Backbone organizations support aligned activities: A key function of the backbone organization is to provide logistical support to activities when needed, and communicate and coordinate activities towards the common goal.
Backbone organizations establish shared measurement practices: This ensures that there is a periodic report to the community on the progress of the collective work towards the goals. VCC has hired a third party evaluation firm to capture information on Enough for All’s contribution to reducing poverty.
Backbone organizations build public will: Ensuring that all those directly involved are kept up to date is key; as well as deepening wider public awareness of the issue to garner wider support for the work, in this case, reducing poverty levels in our city.
Backbone organizations advance policy: Throughout the work, especially within poverty reduction, policy areas may arise that present barriers to the realization of the goal. It is the backbone’s role to advance policy where it can to help advance progress towards realizing the vision.
Backbone organizations can mobilize funding: In some situations, backbone organizations can help to pair projects with funding sources by drawing connections across sectors.
One thing is for sure, collective impact requires participation from across all of the sectors and a high degree of commitment to the common agenda. Collaboration is key to ensuring success.
Find out more about the collective impact approach:
Collective Impact by John Kania & Mark Kramer, Winter 2011.
Understanding the Value of Backbone Organizations in Collective Impact: Part 2 by Shiloh Turner, Kathy Merchant, John Kania & Ellen Martin, July 2012.