By Anne Mead
What is collective impact? Like a wonderful meal prepared by many hands coming together, collective impact is a community with a common agenda leading to one community goal. Fay Hanley-Brown (2011) coined the metaphor of how Thanksgiving is like collective impact. Everyone has a hand in the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal without duplication of dishes. Each dish is prepared by a cook who has her or his special way of preparing it and one common measurement—how well everything is liked by those who eat the meal. The host of the meal lays the foundation for the meal. The table settings and coordination of who is bringing what dishes is done by the host or the backbone of the family. In simple terms, collective impact consists of five elements: a common agenda with the same end goal; common progress measurements; mutually reinforcing activities and expertise; communication that brings together cultures and; a backbone of organization. I believe Danbury is poised to take on the challenge of implementing a full collective impact model.
Danbury is a wealth of community organizations all with one common goal: making it a better place for families to live, raise and educate their children by providing services that are fitting to every lifestyle and age of residents. Do we still work in silos one might ask? Yes, to a certain degree, but those silos are breaking down and agencies are working together more each day. The benefit of implementing the full collective impact model is the combining of human and financial resources, eliminating any duplication of services and engaging community members from all cultures while the process is executed.
Who benefits the most from this model? The entire community does. With everyone working towards one goal, it creates a win-win solution for the families in Danbury, service organizations, municipal government and our schools. Over the past few years, under the leadership of early childhood groups, family service organizations and the backbone leadership of the United Way of Western CT, this model is becoming a reality. Groups are combining efforts, services are improving, resources are being combined for better outcomes and groups are looking at common measurements to show the outcomes of their labor.
The pockets of excellence we have demonstrated by our schools and community agencies show we are ready to move to the next level. I believe we are at the crossroads to take a leap of faith into employing a full cradle to career model for Danbury. With everyone working on a common goal—ready to unite community leaders to tackle the tough challenges that we face, we can move the entire community forward. We have the expertise needed within Danbury to make this happen. We need families to voice their opinion on what is best for them. We need families to take an active part in the decision-making as we move to full implementation. Are you ready for the challenge??? If you are, let me know. We are looking for families willing to serve in different capacities to make collective impact a reality for Danbury.
Anne E. Mead, M. Ed., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.