There are few things in my work here at CCMU that I am as passionate about as bringing people together to catalyze change. I take the old adage, “Two heads are better than one” to heart, and consider collaboration to be a winning strategy in nearly every situation. As you might expect, the idea of “collective impact” is right up my alley.
In the Winter 2011 edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, FSG (a social impact consultant) published a landmark article that gave a name to this concept. Since then, collective impact has skyrocketed to superstar status among social change innovators across the globe. It is defined as “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving specific social problems.” In their initial article, FSG outline five conditions that help create successful collective impact initiatives: developing a common agenda, developing a common evaluation framework, ensuring mutually reinforcing activities, having continuous communication among players, and the presence of a backbone support organization to keep the whole initiative going.
These concepts are essential in understanding collaborative change—and FSG did a great job articulating them into an easy-to-digest framework—but they’re nothing new. Communities have been using “collective impact”-like strategies since the dawn of time. And many of these approaches can be found in our backyards.
In dozens of communities across Colorado, formal health alliances are using similar approaches to tackle the major social issues of health care. Some of these alliances have been around for decades and others are just now exploring formalization, but all of them are working on a common agenda, using collaborative leadership strategies, to improve the local health care system and ensure access to care for all community members.
Since 2012, CCMU has convened these alliances in a statewide learning network called the Colorado Network of Health Alliances. Today, we published a year-in-review document, Progress & Possibilities (PDF), detailing the first year of the network, including current membership (21 alliances) and highlights of the work being done by these groups. We also identified three strategies for local health care change that are common across the members of the Colorado Network of Health Alliances:
- Developing Health Care Leadership for Change – Health alliances are on the front lines of identifying and developing champions for health care change in communities across Colorado. These organizations have the unique ability to bring diverse and high-powered leaders and stakeholders together to work toward common goals.
- Increasing Access to the Health Care System – Health alliances are working hard to catalyze new health care access points, to maximize enrollment in new health insurance coverage options, and planning to care for the needs of Coloradans who will remain uninsured after the Affordable Care Act is implemented.
- Improving and Strengthening the Health Care System – Through formal alliances, health and community leaders across the state are constantly searching for ways to coordinate services, limit duplication, and pool resources.
At CCMU we’re thrilled to be a part of both old and new collective impact movements in communities across our state. We know Colorado’s health alliances are poised to lead our state toward stronger and more inclusive health care systems in the years ahead, and the Network as a whole has the potential to effectively create significant and lasting health care change in Colorado. Onward!