Investors: Critical Roots that Drive Quality Collective Impact (Part 1)

by Jeff Edmondson on August 6, 2014

We all know that funding is critical to driving change in our communities. It is easy to see dollars – public or private – as the lifeblood of any initiative’s sustainability. However, it is also easy to look past the larger role that investors can play in collective impact work. In the end, investors can engage in community-wide Role_of_investorsaction in meaningful ways that transcend the traditional roles that have been defined over time that too often focus on putting resources behind individual programs and services.

The role of the investor in quality collective impact work may be harder to quantify when we get beyond dollars and cents, but is critical to building the roots needed to grow sustainable “civic infrastructure” – the organization of all community resources around
a single vision with focus on measuring and improving results overtime. If investors are intentionally and actively involved in initiatives focused on long-term solutions to complex social problems, we can maximize the value of their philanthropy and change the paradigm on their role in such work.

To explore how this shift could occur and specifically the key roles investors can play in rigorous collective impact partnerships, we collaborated with Grantmakers for Education to create a new paper, “The Role of Investors: Lessons Learned on Critical Roots that Drive Quality Collective Impact.”

This paper discusses three key lessons learned from conversations with philanthropists engaged in on-the-ground collective impact initiatives across the country. In summary, we learned that investors can help communities by:

    1. Adopting and embracing a different mindset. Quality collective impact requires investors to roll up their sleeves with partners to identify the ways they can best engage to achieve impact. Engaged investors can lead to a dramatic shift in the way investors operate as a collective impact partner in any community.investor impact
    2. Building the connective tissue. Through their networks, investors can help build the cross-sector connections needed to achieve collective impact and build civic infrastructure.
    3. Investing in leadership. Investors experience training leaders within their own organizations can help lift up and support leadership development for those driving collective impact.

To learn more about each of these lessons and the role investors can play in quality collective impact work, download “The Role of Investors: Lessons Learned on Critical Roots that Drive Quality Collective Impact”.

Next week, in part two of this four-part blog series on the role of investors, I will discuss lesson one in more detail and share examples of how cross-sector partnerships benefit as investors embrace a different mindset around collective impact.


We want to hear from you! Do these lessons resonate with your community? Are there other roles investors can play to drive quality collective impact from cradle to career? Leave a comment or tweet us @strivetogether by using #collectiveimpact.


Lessons outlined above and discussed in our new paper were drawn from a panel session StriveTogether and Grantmakers for Education co-hosted at the Collective Impact Forum’s May 2014 “Catalyzing Large Scale Change: The Funder’s Role in Collective Impact” conference in Aspen, Colorado.

During the session, five panelists from the investor community shared their perspectives and experience in working with collective impact. The panel used the StriveTogether Theory of Action – a hypothesis for quality collective impact developed by over 30 communities building cradle-to-career partnerships – to reflect on the role of investors at various stages of development.

Jeff Edmondson About Jeff Edmondson
Jeff Edmondson is the Managing Director of StriveTogether, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks. StriveTogether is a national cradle-to-career initiative that brings together leaders in Pre-K-12 schools, higher education, business and industry, community organizations, government leaders, parents and other stakeholders who are committed to helping children succeed from birth through careers.

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