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Dale Miller Urges Collective Impact Approach to Racial Equity.

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

I read the recent recommendations from the Citizens Advisory Council on Equity and believe they brought forth an excellent set of ideas to help us make progress in various focus areas. To access the full report, please use this link.

What we can add is a systemic approach. The Foundation Community has been using a concept for a decade or more called "collective impact." This concept is used to deal with problems that affect an entire community and are best tackled by its various systems all working on the problem at the same time and working in close coordination. This seems to fit well for dealing with racial equity. If we just make progress in education or just make progress on housing, for example, it's only going to get us so far. We require progress in education, housing, workforce development, contracting, health care, mental health and addiction, criminal justice, leadership development, voting access, food availability, general community atmosphere, and more to occur at the same time and be mutually reinforcing.

The collective impact model has five key principles:

  1. A broad group of organizations and individuals agree to pursue a common agenda.

  2. The work together to develop shared systems of measurement.

  3. They carry out activities that are mutually reinforcing.

  4. The engage in continuous communication.

  5. The have backbone support.

The final principle, backbone support, refers to having an organization that convenes stakeholders, facilitates communications, helps in the development of shared systems of measurement, and helps generate an effort among the partners that is collaborative and mutually reinforcing.

The backbone organization could be a new organization created for this purpose, but more often it is an existing organization that sees the common agenda as consistent with its mission and is willing to provide some organizational infrastructure. The backbone organization could be the County, a County agency, or a major local business. However, the best candidates would be a local university, foundation, or a major non-profit, such as United Way or the Urban League.

This model would really help us create an all-systems effort, one that includes the whole community, not just Cuyahoga County government.

I recommend that we organize a collective impact effort to pursue racial equity in Cuyahoga County and that we initiate a process to identify a backbone organization to help organize and facilitate the process. I seek your thoughts and comments.

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