Collective Impact in South Australia

South Australia has been working since 2009 to promote and support organisations, communities and governments to adopt the Collective Impact approach say Australian social change advocates Dawn O’Neil AM and Kerry Graham.

Over the past six months we have been writing about the need for Australia’s social change sector to embrace the Collective Impact approach in order to help address our most entrenched and complex social challenges.

One State has been working since 2009 to promote the approach and support organisations, communities and governments to adopt the Collective Impact approach. Gill McFadyen, CEO of Community Centres SA shared the journey of Together SA with Dawn O’Neil.

How did you get started?

For a long time the South Australian community development sector has been frustrated at our inability to provide consistent, meaningful evidence that people, their families and ultimately their communities are better off as a result of the community development work of community and neighbourhood centres.

We became interested in Results Based Accountability (RBA™), a methodology for planning, implementing, evaluating and continuously improving our work at a program level, which our colleagues in NSW had been piloting for two years. We unsuccessfully applied for funding to support a pilot project in SA but because of the shared recognition of the importance of this work, our Board made the strategic decision to self fund on a smaller scale.

As we planned this project we were approached by the Department of Communities and Social Inclusion (DCSI) with an offer to partly fund an expanded pilot which would include some organisations funded through different streams of the Family and Community Development Program. This project continued over the next 12 months involving 11 organisations in trialling RBA in one or more of their programs.

At the same time, the Family and Community Development Program Funding Guidelines were in a reform process and considerable advocacy work by the sector led to our members and other peaks being involved in in redrafting the guidelines in a more outcomes focussed way.

Early in 2012, our Board continued to progress our commitment to RBA by developing a State Budget Submission to continue to introduce RBA at a program level and to pilot population accountability and generally strengthen our sectors capacity for implementing RBA methodology.

At around the same time, the Premier’s launch of seven strategic priorities for SA called for innovative ways of working to bring about positive change for people and communities– there was a real synergy between our proposal and the Premiers vision and commitment to meaningful community engagement, especially in ‘Every Chance for Every Child’, ‘Safe and Healthy Neighbourhoods’ and ‘An Affordable Place to Live’.

As we started to meet with various people, our research took us to “Collective Impact”, a way of bringing stakeholders together to agree on an outcome and work together to achieve that outcome, methodology which was having positive results in “turning the curve” on challenging social issues in the US, Canada and UK.

A working group was set up to develop the proposal to the Safe and Healthy Neighbourhoods Taskforce which included the Governors Leadership Foundation Community Action Project Team, Community Centres SA Board and Staff members and representatives from Local Government Association, DCSI and Department of Premier & Cabinet. The proposal wasn’t supported at the Taskforce meeting. This served only to increase the determination of the working group (and its increasing number of supporters) to not give up and a further proposal was developed.

Meanwhile, Community Benefit South Australia (CBSA) funded a project to expand our RBA performance accountability project at a program level and to develop an RBA Community of Practice that will continue throughout 2013. We ran a series of RBA workshops in the regions to help centres prepare for the funding process and noted how the energy in the room rises whenever we start talking about better off measures.

Where are you now?

Momentum has quickly grown and we are now at an exciting point where a Collective Impact approach through ‘Together SA’ has Government, philanthropic and community support. The revised proposal including organisations committed to financially contributing to the alliance was submitted to the Premier’s Office in May.

The Hon Tony Piccolo MP, Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion announced the Government’s financial contribution on behalf of Premier Jay Weatherill at the opening of our “Collective Action…..make an Impact” conference on Thursday, May 30.

Other contributors joining us at this early stage include Uniting Communities, Uniting Care Wesley Port Adelaide, Uniting Care Wesley Bowden, ac.Care, Anglicare, Wyatt Foundation, Community Business Bureau, SA Unions, Lutheran Community Care, Foodbank SA, Junction Australia, SACOSS, SA Centre for Economic Studies, Welcome to Australia, SANDAS.

Where are you heading?

The ‘Together SA’ Collective Impact initiative will create large scale and sustainable improvements on complex social issues and increase sustainable participation and capacity within communities, by supporting organisations to move beyond individual agendas and activities to a collective approach that emphasises concerted and mutually reinforcing action to achieve outcomes.

Specifically, Together SA will:

  • Identify existing successful and innovative community engagement/collective impact approach initiatives and strategies;
  • Identify and address structural and cultural impediments to delivering a more decentralised, collaborative model of engagement with state strategic priorities;
  • Collaborate with community members, organisations and community and other stakeholders to agree common key social goals and in doing so, develop a best practice model for conversing with communities in a way which promotes engagement and develops community leadership and capacity and deliver formal and informal education on this model;
  • Demonstrate and undertake a model of engagement on identified issues and community initiatives – e.g. affordable living, centre of wellbeing;
  • Ensure real progress and engagement on identified key social goals/priorities;
  • Engage and support the participation of community members and organisations in the collective achievement of social goals;
  • Develop community leadership and capacity to collectively achieve goals;
  • Continuously agree on mutually reinforcing activities, services and programmes that contribute to our agreed collective outcomes;
  • Establish, and through project activities, grow and mobilise an alliance for ongoing community conversation, development of community leadership, engagement and collective impact on issues;
  • Attract new funding and re-focus existing funding to support activities towards achieving agreed outcomes;
  • Continuously communicate, monitor and evaluate using the Results Based Accountability framework and share learning with community members and stakeholders; and
  • Identify opportunities for wider application of the approach.

Why has Community Centres SA led this?

Absolutely central and critical to Together SA is that it is about community members identifying the outcomes they want for their communities through developing and supporting community leadership and authentic community engagement, then being supported by government and non-government agencies, business and philanthropists to move towards that agreed outcome.

That puts a collective impact approach firmly in the community development space. As said by Karyn Bradford from Milang Old School House Community Centre at the conference….”It seems that Collective Impact is community development with meaningful data”.

This blog was first published on Pro Bono News