Collective Impact

Best Practices

Collective Impact

Background | Shared Impact | Impact Measurement

Collective Impact

What is Collective Impact ?

During the last five years, there has been a  movement around various types of collective outcomes and impact programs. Stanford Social Innovation,  FSG and other leading organizations are giving a rise to new ecosystem aligned to collective impact initiatives. Programs often align by regional impact, the area of focus and common goals should follow five core principles of collective impact: a common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support. This article focuses on value and best practices of achieving “The Shared Measurement” principle.

Collective impact initiatives can enable small to medium size nonprofits by proving their socio-economic influence. Many of the nonprofits simply do not even have enough capacity to demonstrate their own impact.  Three Reasons for putting together collective impact initiatives are -

  1. Gain powerful leverage for increases in government / public grants.

  2. Power to lobby for beneficiary legislation by demonstrating that nonprofits are working where businesses do not and create socio economic improvement.

  3. Demonstrate meaningful and effective measures of the organization’s mission and vision

Watch and Learn

Chris Gaines, SoPact lead trainer explains ❇️ how to build Collective Impact Framework - Impact Management Framework For Impact Investors, Foundations, Governments, Family offices, Social Impact Accelerators, and intermediaries to design a collaborative impact management process.

Collective impact models

Collective impact initiatives must meet five criteria in order to be considered a collective impact
  1. Having a common agenda: When different stakeholders come together to collectively define the problem and create a common vision to solve it.
  2. Having a common language of measurement. To learn what is changing, all the stakeholders have to agree to the same metrics and measurement process
  3. Working together towards a common goal: Coordinating activities can maximize the end result.
  4. Communicating continuously: To build trust and relationships among all stakeholders.
  5. Having an impact steering as a strong backbone.

That means having a team dedicated to orchestrating the work of the group


Watch and Learn

This is a live conversation video with Scott Wolovich, Executive Director, New Sun Rising. The challenge for systemic social change isn’t the lack of talent or inventive solutions to society’s pressing issues.

  • Collecting stakeholder insight to lead and benefit from a change
  • Aligning outcomes and resources in the collective impact ecosystem
  • Analyzing progress through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Collective Impact Examples

Social impact network organizations are a broad range of hub-and-spoke  type organizations. Some examples of social collective impact networks include:

  • Social Enterprise Alliance (social enterprise network organizations)
  • Social value networks (Examples: impact fund networks, micro-finance networks, statewide social enterprise network, social business network)
  • Incubators and accelerators (mostly focused on matured social businesses only)
  • Network organizations focusing on crowdfunding and crowd services models
  • Impact networks supporting multiple social enterprise growth
  • Mentor networks

During the last decade, many innovative network models have emerged. Such models offer unique growth opportunities, but an even more important value they can potentially bring to the table is transparency. The key word there is "potential" because many fall well short of such transparency.

The main driver of impact network organizations is demonstrating the impact of their programs. products or services.  However, these collective initiatives are often run by small or medium size nonprofits who do not have sufficient bandwidth to define a comprehensive theory of change,  or to properly collect data and report on it.

So, how might they create a collective impact framework to sufficiently demonstrate impact? 

Collective Impact Challenges

Collective impact organization or initiatives face many challenges for demonstrating social impact results.

  1. Aligning collective theory of change:  Nonprofits participating in collective impact programs often experience a mismatch in program objectives, beneficiaries served, and intended outcome. Hence, it is often best to start with programs that have collective areas of impact.  For example, education in the specific state of counties.

  2. Even after aligning organizations participating in the same programs, non-profits often do not have similar program metrics. For example, a collective program in education can be focused on pre-school, after-school, college readiness, children with special needs, etc. The general best practice is to create sub-programs and assign standard based metrics.  Standard metrics provide a better measurement context with commonly known data collection processes. While even after grouping them by sub-program, each nonprofit may still have key indicators that are unique to them.

  3. Simplifying the results data collection and reducing the operative burden:  While nonprofits may be willing to participate in the results collection process, the biggest challenge is to incentivize each of them to provide results that uniquely identify key indicators close to their mission and vision. Providing a large survey common to each sub-program participant can be quite counter productive.

  4. Using data research tools like IMPLAN to understand the economic impact of the nonprofits within their community, as well as the larger economic landscape as similar organizations work tackling similar issues within the same region.

  5. Communicate the results across the different players, so each of them is not only motivated to continue measuring impact and sharing their results, but also they can understand their shortcomings and plan for improvement.

  6. Report collective impact through different tools to get more support from partners, communities, and funders. When there is evidence that an initiative is moving the needle both socially and economically, people are more prone to trust and support the cause.

Read More: How to setup the groundwork for effective social impact measurement?

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Collective Impact Shared Measurement

The social impact measurement platform should have the following capabilities:

  • Provide data-driven insights to all your programs, grants and investments with built-in, flexible scenario with real-time updates when new results arrive

  • Flexible, comprehensive and easy to use

  • Provide end to end life cycle from theory of change, integrated with standardized and custom metrics selection process, ease of data collection & analytics and integrated reporting

  • Results collection should not add a burden. Only collect results that matter most.

  • Impact reporting should smartly provide qualitative and quantitative results composition with smart impact learning summary

Read MoreHow can we improve social impact accounting?



Economic impact analysis is often accessible to only a few privileged nonprofits with large budgets and access to specialized practitioners. Today, it is possible to democratize this information thanks to tools like IMPLAN that help collective nonprofits measure economic impact regardless of their size or budget. As collective impact platform, SoPact Impact Cloud can simplify the process of setting up the collective impact programs’ Theory of Change, indicators, results collection process, results in analysis and results in communication through impact reports.

Read More: About Social Impact Assessment


Collective Impact Framework

Impact Measurement Framework

Social Businesses with multi-site and/or multi-program initiatives can track their operations, finances, and impact by measuring the impact of both programs and products.

These network organizations often have a mission to create a strong ecosystem that drives social change by doing some of the following:

  • Emboldening social businesses through access to resources so that the positive outcomes they seek are more effectively and efficiently realized (see the Social Ventures example).
  • Helping to deliver transparent results to global investors so that they can make more informed investing decisions.
  • Bringing together impact investors to share resources, knowledge, investing opportunities, and more (see Toniic).
  • Participating in and/or forming collective impact initiatives.

One of the biggest challenges for these network organizations is to demonstrate impact effectively.


Measuring Impact Across Networks

Let's say one social impact network includes 200+ social businesses and of those businesses, 25 focus on alternative energy, 45 focus on the healthcare, 40 on awareness-building, 45 on training services, and the remaining 45 on education.

One of the biggest challenges such a network organization would face is how to demonstrate the collective impact of all the organizations participating.

Such a challenge is compounded when a donor or other investor doesn't just want to report on the overall impact of a network, but also wants to see a deeper dive into a specific impact theme, such as "employment," or maybe into a particular city or community (e.g. the region where they grew up and still live).

Such stakeholders must be given accurate, specific reporting and, even better, access to a dynamic webpage in which they can quickly see output, outcome, and impact. The key is enabling them to be able to get a quick look at data and, even they want, to go even deeper. After all, they hold the capital that will catalyze even more of the impact the network seeks to generate.

Thus, to start a network organization must collect the outputs and outcomes which can define the collective outcome of a specific impact area for the network as a whole. For example, if the impact theme is "employment," one indicator could be "how many jobs created."

Even though such numbers may be apple and oranges (not all jobs are created equal), for an average investor taking a first look at an impact networks' numbers, this is a good starting point.

Even though such numbers may be apple and oranges (not all jobs are created equal), for an average investor taking a first look at an impact networks' numbers, this is a good starting point.

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Dashboard: MicroTracker

Collective Dashboard of more than 600 US microenterprise programs. Side-by-side comparisons of microenterprise programs across the country, or explore metrics for different segments of the industry. 


Purpose of a Collective Impact Dashboard 

While getting investors to see collective results is a good starting point, the ultimate goal is to invite them to find an organization that is close to their heart. This could be through a certain cause, region, or other specific outcome areas.

SoPact Impact Cloud empowers businesses, impact managers, impact investors, and more to manage impact data all in one place through a first-of-its-kind impact dashboard.

It provides a basic customizable design as per each network organization’s needs, and for a large high net worth individual or funders (e.g., foundations) it can prepare visualized data-driven stories relevant to funding objectives.

Part of the Cloud, the SoPact Impact Maker, can be especially useful to network organizations that have long-term relationships with their partner organizations because both at the network management level and the social business level, each user can input data, build impact frameworks, and access results.

This encourages ongoing, real-time feedback, fostering better relationships and helping to strengthen the ecosystem and its results in the process.

Collective Impact Collaboration 

SoPact leads a major collective impact program in the affordable housing sector. The initiative is based around HomeKeeper, a Salesforce-based popular application designed for affordable homeownership and housing counseling programs. 

HomeKeeper focuses on the day-to-day workflow of a housing program administrator, but also collects performance data that is forwarded to the HomeKeeper National Data Hub, which aggregates the data and generates social impact reports.

HomeKeeper is also a HUD approved Housing Counseling Management System (CMS), designed for homeownership advisors AND counselors.

For example, a Community Land Trust or Habitat for Humanity affiliate who are managing affordable housing programs would use HomeKeeper.

HomeKeeper-3 (1) (1)

Homekeeper: Create Master Data Warehouse of all Salesforce Instances -  Integration using JitterBit


In partnership with HomeKeeper, Sopact developed an intelligent integration so that HomeKeeper administrators could regularly submit all grant specific reporting requirements.

While these reporting requirements are regulatory, the key challenges for these organizations is to see how they can demonstrate their impact conclusively.

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HomeKeeper: Reviewing the value of an individual and collective housing on the social economic impact

For these organizations demonstrating impact is perhaps the most critical. Their primary goal is to strengthen the mission of all participating network organizations. 


Collective Impact Backbone Organization

Aligning organizations with a different missions, funding approaches, and geographical differences is challenging.  Aligning their mission, vision, theory of changes, measurement approach and reporting requires, multi-stakeholder align various key objectives.  Backbone organization is common glue to the collective strategy. 

5 Principles of Backbone Organizations (Learn More: SSIR Article):

  • Clarity of purpose
  • Driving long term momentum and growth
  • Strong partnership identity
  • Connected and aligned people and activities
  • Involving target stakeholders
  • Clear measures of success connected to continuous learning and improvement



Learn More:
3 Reasons Why the Collective Impact Model is the Future of Social Change
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