Thinking & Acting Differently: The Collective Impact Opportunity

Through generous support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), the USBC has had the opportunity to investigate and integrate the principles and practices of Collective Impact. The changes you’ve seen on the outside—from our new Strategic Framework to our new website—reflect a deep transformation for us on the inside. This has allowed us to refocus on our unique niche as the national breastfeeding coalition, to expand the infrastructure support we can provide for the collaborative work of the field.

While there have been profound benefits arising from WKKF’s investment, it is not necessary to have significant funding to bring Collective Impact values and methods to bear in even the smallest collaborative efforts. It’s not necessary to go "all in" on Collective Impact, change your entire organization, or hire an expert consultant. Even minor shifts in perspective and application of the right tools at the right time can make a big difference for your collaborative work. The only requirement is a shared commitment to influencing change through cross-sector engagement. In short, the belief that we are better together.

Collective Impact tells us that who we engage and how we work is as important as what we do. It has become increasingly clear that it is impossible to separate Collective Impact from the equity work the USBC has concurrently undertaken and embedded into our new Strategic Framework.

As you can read in the Beginner-Level articles in the Collective Impact Learning Community Recommended Readings library, the five conditions of Collective Impact are:

  • Common agenda
  • Shared measurement
  • Mutually reinforcing activities
  • Continuous communication
  • Backbone support organizations

With a common agenda as the starting point, it is critical to ask: common to whom? It is essential that from the beginning, decisions are informed by diverse voices from multiple sectors, including those representing the lived experience of the communities being served. As Kimarie Bugg, Founder of Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, frequently says, “Being at the table changes the conversation.”

As the inaugural session in our new Collective Impact webinar series explains, there are many excellent tools that provide a methodology for scanning for stakeholders and strategically recruiting them. Resources like the Top 100 Partners Exercise and the Engagement Cycle—to be featured in future webinars—will walk you through the steps for effective outreach. But there is more to stakeholder engagement than just invitations to participate...

Effective collaborations have trusting relationships at their heart. Reaching beyond our personal comfort zones to engage in authentic, courageous conversations is critical to truly embody inclusion as a core value in our work. With that as our starting point, we can ensure that the strategies prioritized, the measurement designed, and the ways the activities ultimately are implemented, flow from a foundation of equity.

This has relevance to every breastfeeding coalition, stakeholder organization, and individual in our field. This is the key that unlocks the opportunity to leverage the valuable wisdom and resources of all participants, minimizing siloed and duplicated efforts, while maximizing the impact of the initiative.

We warmly welcome you to join us in conversation online in the Collective Impact Learning Community, where we will continue to explore these concepts and share our experiences as we move this forward.

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Thinking & Acting Differently: The Collective Impact Opportunity