A Learning Journey, Part 1 – Leading a Backbone Organization for Collective Impact
May 8, 2013
Blog by Kim Nordbye, Project Manager. Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo
In April, I embarked on a two-part learning journey, having the honour of attending two incredible conferences. The first was hosted by the Tamarack Institute and attended by approximately 100 people from across Canada and the United States including 11 people from a wide variety of Fort McMurray organizations – Volunteer Wood Buffalo, Nonprofit Sector Link, Leadership Wood Buffalo, Community Futures Wood Buffalo, St. Aidan’s Society, Y-Connect, the Bridge Foundation, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the Wood Buffalo Arts Council, the Oil Sands Developers Group and MacDonald Island Park.
At Champions for Change: Leading a Backbone Organization for Collective Impact we discussed how collective impact brings together actors from different sectors to agree on a common agenda to address a complex social issue. We looked at how backbone organizations play a complex, behind-the-scenes role in the success of these collective impact initiatives. The group from Fort McMurray worked together to look at the various collective impact initiatives forming or potentially being formed in Fort McMurray to see whether they have the five conditions necessary for successful collective impact – common agenda; shared measurement; mutually reinforcing activities; continuous communication and; backbone support. And, we learned how backbone support has specific roles to ensure success including guiding the vision & strategy; supporting aligned activities; establishing shared measurement practices; building public will; advancing policy; and mobilizing the funding and resources needed for the collective impact initiative.
For me I learned three key things over the three days that I hope to bring back to my work in the community with Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo: 1) relationships, interactions and constant communication are key to fostering and creating the right environment; 2) with complex social issues, we need to focus on simple rules or minimum specs that will enable participants or stakeholders to absorb and embrace the complexity and; 3) we need to expect surprise and be comfortable with the discomfort.
Over the three days, I absorbed as much as I possibly could from some amazing collective impact thought leaders such as John Kania, Brenda Zimmerman, Liz Weaver and Paul Borne. And, the three days together with other Fort McMurray social profit leaders allowed me the opportunity to learn more about the work we are all doing in Wood Buffalo & how we can better collaborate together for the success of individual collective impact initiatives and for stronger collective impact in our region as a whole. I encourage you to contact the organizations that attended the workshop and tap into the wealth of information & learning they are bringing back to Fort McMurray.
Finally, if collective impact, collaboration and community building are of interest to you, then I also highly recommend participation in another incredible Tamarack Institute event taking place in Edmonton, October 7-11. Accelerating Impact, 2013 Communities Collaborating Institute is designed for those who desire new ways to lead, engage and transform their community and then accelerate impact by linking local efforts to provincial and national agendas.
For Part 2 of my learning journey, read my second blog – Getting Legislation that Helps