Recently, New Orleans Kids Partnership has been conducting a strategic planning and restructuring phase. Through this process, our mission remains the same – to expand access to high quality services for children, youth and families in Greater New Orleans. In fact, it is our priority to create a strategy that will improve operational efficiency and focus our work in order to better fulfill this mission. As a result of this process we will also increase alignment with the citywide sector of children and youth services, better meet the needs of our hardworking partner organizations, and create a sustainable and efficient operational model to set NOKP up for long-term success.
As we prepare for this next phase of change within our organization, we want to take a moment to reflect on collective impact more holistically and the organizations that are successfully enacting this work in communities across the country.
What is Collective Impact?
Collective impact work is happening globally at varying scales and for many worthy causes, and there are many attributes that define the work. In the definitive article entitled “Collective Impact” from the Stanford Social Innovation Review, John Kania and Mark Kramer define collective impact as “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem; collective impact initiatives involve a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, and a structured process that leads to a common agenda, shared measurement, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing activities among all participants.”
It is important to note that this is complex and tedious systems-level work can only be successful when all stakeholders truly understand and believe in the shared agenda and goals. This is the framework for any collective impact initiative that is the driving force which allows a diverse group of leaders to come together and form a powerful collaboration to create big change. Here are a few examples of successful collective impact work happening to improve children and youth services across the country.
AN started in 2004 in response to declining graduation rates in the city of Nashville and an uncoordinated system of organizations attempting to fix the problem in isolation and with little trust from the community. They realized that real change would require alignment among all stakeholders around a single agenda. Bringing together city leaders from across sectors, the team first focused on identifying a framework and strategy that would allow many diverse stakeholders, from school leaders and business leaders to community participants and direct service providers, to have a voice and work efficiently together. Today, the organization continues to thrive as a result of this meticulous and well-crafted plan. Each planning team focuses projects around one of five long-term visions for the city: increased high school graduation rates, increase in college readiness, increase in career readiness, children’s health and wellness and community prosperity. Learn more about Alignment Nashville here.
Started in 2006 as the first cradle to career community bringing together local leaders in school districts in Cincinnati, Ohio and across Northern Kentucky to improve education in the region’s urban core. More than 300 cross-sector representatives joined in the effort, starting with an agreed-upon set of goals, outcomes and success indicators, including kindergarten readiness, fourth-grade reading and math scores and graduation rates, among many others. Using continuous quality improvement, a methodology used in engineering and healthcare fields, the group coordinates projects and resources around proven practices and outcomes. In their first four years they improved 34 of the 53 success indicators. They have since created a national cradle to career network of collective impact organizations that follow their proven structure and theory of change, and also share data and professional development tactics to improve quality of services. Learn more about Strive Together here.
Created in the early 2000s by the Austin Area Research Organization, this organization focuses on data and research in order to improve infrastructure and align focus among school districts, community leaders and nonprofit to set the standard for best practices and leverage limited resources. E3 Alliance provides previously unavailable objective information about education trends and outcomes and shares it transparently to improve education in Central Texas. The data and analyses allow communities and institutions to understand educational gaps, develop a common agenda for change, and identify solutions. E3 Alliance does not replace education programs and services in the community, focusing instead on breaking systemic barriers. Learn more about E3 Alliance here.
The Future at NOKP
It is with these narratives in mind, along with our own determination and dedicated expertise from partners, consultants, board members and staff that we look forward to the new evolution of New Orleans Kids Partnership. We believe that this time of change offers our stakeholders an opportunity to re-focus and re-energize efforts towards realizing our shared mission and vision for New Orleans children and youth. We encourage all to participate and voice their opinions as we move forward and hope that new organizations from across the city will take part in our mission as we grow. Thank you for your continued support of NOKP and we look forward to working with you in the future. We will continue to post updates as we move forward.