Enhancing Collective Impact to Integrate and Elevate Community Expertise and Authority

Topics: Community Partnerships

By Byron P. White, EdD.

Summoning the collaborative spirit that launched StrivePartnership more than a decade ago, we have committed to an enhanced approach to collective impact that more authentically integrates community authority into our work. Our primary driver is a model of the urban education ecosystem that goes beyond the more institution-centric positioning that framed the terms of engagement at StrivePartnership’s inception. It builds on this foundation by affirming the primacy that intimate influencers and community assets have on students’ learning.

The model, which places the student at its center, is represented by spheres of influence that acknowledge that the student is surrounded first by an “influencer sphere” of individuals with whom she or he trusts and interacts with intimately. Surrounding this sphere is a “community sphere,” which reflects the community organizations and informal associations aligned with place. Beyond this is an “institutional sphere,” which includes many of the organizations and agencies that typically drive collective impact for urban youth. At the outer edge is a “systems sphere,” which includes large, mostly governmental agencies that drive policies.

Cutting across each sphere of the ecosystem model are three channels of motivation: care, civic and commerce. Those in the care channel are committed to the students’ whole being. Those in the civic channel are focused on some particular aspect of the students’ development, such as health or education. Those in the commerce channel engage the student primarily as a consumer.

For youth to be successful, community initiatives must be designed to use the assets in each sphere. However, while institutional and civic leaders have paid a great deal of attention to the deficiencies of the community and influencer spheres, they have largely overlooked or undervalued assets that exist within them. It is not just that actors within these spheres have been ignored; they often are pushed out of the way as harmful to students.

In an effort to restore credibility to the work and advance it to achieve equity on behalf of children and communities, StrivePartnership has sought to address this oversight through the pursuit of new learning partnerships with community leaders, broadening staff capacity and expertise and modifying organizational policies and goals.

Learn more about how StrivePartnership and other partnerships in the StriveTogether national network are enhancing collective impact to integrate and elevate the expertise and authority of those closest to the problems we’re trying to solve in this Stanford Social Innovation Review article, which  I co-authored with Jennifer Blatz and Mark Joseph.