Shredding the Evidence: Whose Collective Impact are We Talking About?
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There has been considerable hype in Australia recently accompanying the North American-informed Collective Impact (CI) approach and its claims to deliver real transformative social change for individuals and communities. CI actively promotes its principal incentive and distinctive trait, namely to concentrate the energies of its collaborators to achieve real, long-term, measurable and sustainable outcomes, often quoted as a Social Return on Investment (SRoI). Not coincidentally, the rise of CI’s visibility has emerged alongside diminishing public funding for social change initiatives, with a corresponding and somewhat belated turn to the philanthropic sector to partially meet this funding shortfall. Early signs across Australia indicate that philanthropic funds are no less driven by a ‘value for money’ imperative than governments that in turn, has left many lamenting the shift in community organisations working to satisfy donor expectations rather than working with and for local communities. In this context, some serious questions have already been raised about the Collective Impact approach and ambition, particularly how CI can meaningfully engage with long-term disadvantaged local communities and realistically agree on what successful outcomes would look like for such communities. Community cultural development (CCD) would seem to offer a useful counterpoint to the CI approach with its enduring emphasis on authentic process and bottom-up solutions but CCD too has received its own share of criticism for an obsession with process to the exclusion of real and tangible social outcomes. Whatever approach’s claims are to be tested, this paper starts from the standpoint that their veracity will only be significant if they can actually demonstrate they are making a difference in our most disadvantaged communities and populations.
KeywordsCollective impact Measuring well-being Community cultural development Community indicators
This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant, funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2013S1A3A2054622), and the CCD organisation, Beyond Empathy.
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