Equity in Collective Impact

Centering Equity in Collective Impact Stanford Social Innovation Review Winter 2022

This article is too long. Note the important highlights below.

Illustrator: Julia Schwarz

… the single greatest reason why collective impact efforts fall short is a failure to center equity.

Collective impact has lasting effectiveness only if it is focused on changing underlying systems, not just adding new programs or services.

Disaggregate the data

Unless the data is disaggregated, we cannot truly understand problems, develop appropriate solutions, or document progress.

Describing society’s problems with aggregate data: the national unemployment rate, high school graduation rates, the number of people living below the poverty line, or the percent of neonatal fatalities, masks variations by characteristics such as race and ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, income levels.

Improve the precision of data collection and reporting practices to support more equitable analysis and more targeted solutions.

Disaggregated data are essential but not sufficient.

Centering equity in the work of collective impact requires a more holistic understanding of the life experience of marginalized populations that can come only from interviews, surveys, focus groups, personal stories, and authentic engagement.

Putting data into the appropriate context

Groups interpreting the data do not often include those with lived experience when making sense of the data. Data sets that are solely quantitative, fail to capture important context that only the people most impacted and those closest to them know, and

To address this problem, many collective impact efforts begin with “data walks,” in which all participants in the collective impact effort, including organizational leaders and residents with lived experience of the issues, review easy-to-understand visual data and together analyze, interpret, and create shared meaning about what the data say.

Power of stories

The very act of seeking out and listening to stories from the affected group can provide a foundation for building trust with community stakeholders. Active use of stories can also serve to locate and center the narrative for change in the community. This step can shift conversations about solutions from more conventional programmatic responses to more systemic solutions focused more concretely on achieving greater equity.

Randy Terada
Centre for Social Innovation Annex
720 Bathurst St.

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