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Collective Impact Transformation: The Power of Community Change

Imagine yourself as a teenager: You’re in high school, learning algebra and English literature, navigating the complex relationship of cool kids and jocks and everyone in between. Deciding where life will take you next. Sounds normal, right?

Now add to that you have to work a part-time job to help support yourself and your family, but you don’t make enough to afford a vehicle, much less the gas in it. There isn’t a bus route that goes by your house to get you to high school, but you’re determined to get an education. So you pay for a ride sharing service to get you to and from school. You spend almost all of your money on transportation in order to get an education, and your physical and mental health sit on the back burner.

Sound complicated? It is.

This student goes to Holloway High School. He’s not just an anecdote about how people struggle and life is complicated. His story is just one example of the real life complex issues facing the students at Holloway, and people all across our community.

“Our problems aren’t just education related,” Sumatra Drayton, Principal of Holloway High School said. “They’re financial stability related, and health related, and education, too. Every impact area of United Way affects our students. You can’t separate the issues and expect sustainable solutions for entire populations.”

How do we address these complex issues? Through the highest form of community collaboration, known as “Collective Impact,” United Way of Rutherford & Cannon Counties is unifying the resources of local partners to better serve our community and address large-scale issues with complex solutions.

Collective Impact is a proven, more effective framework for solving complex social issues. It means bringing together partners from all sectors; government, business, non-profit and religious determine what some of the most pressing issues in our community are in order to provide solutions and ensure every person is surrounded by the tools they need to succeed in life.

By aligning United Way's agenda with like-minded organizations, we can collectively create a highly focused, positive impact in our communities.

What does this mean for United Way of Rutherford & Cannon Counties?

Collaboration is nothing new. The social sector is filled with examples of partnerships, networks, and other types of joint efforts. But collective impact initiatives are distinctly different. Unlike most collaborations, collective impact initiatives involve a centralized infrastructure and a structured process that leads to a common agenda, shared measurement, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing activities among all participants.

United Way is committed to playing the crucial role of the backbone in order to implement solutions for the complex issues facing our community. They have evolved investments beyond the transactional, grant-making business of previous years and are now engaging with the community to guide vision, support aligned activities, build the public will, and mobilize funding.

“Big goals require vision,” Meagan Flippin President and CEO of United Way of Rutherford & Cannon Counties said. “United Way is seeking to work with its partners in new ways, developing community-based change strategies around a common vision, common agenda and a common path forward. For United Way, collective impact work is about bringing the community together to be part of the solution.”It takes an entire community to make a difference. Together with our partners and the community, United Way shares the responsibility, risk, and reward in order to create lasting, impactful, transformational change.

United Way of Rutherford & Cannon Counties' board has been exploring this transformation for some time and voted this fall to formally move in this direction. Leadership from United Way’s current grant recipients were invited to a townhall meeting to learn more about the transformation, and offered the opportunity to provide feedback for United Way’s consideration. The next steps in implementing this transformation will be gathering data from the community to determine what our needs are. This process involves analyzing existing secondary data, as well as utilizing surveys, focus groups, and community conversations to collect supporting qualitative data. This information will be used by the task force to establish the needs, and then identify the bold goals that will help us tackle or solve the increasingly complex problems we face as a society.

To stay updated and be part of our journey to collective impact, sign up for United Way emails and follow them on social media.

Learn More

Read more about Collective Impact in this article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Learn about Collective Impact in action across North America.

"Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations." Kania & Kramer