Collective impact is when groups from different sectors work together to solve a specific social problem, striving to reach the same goal. Working together achieves better results with fewer resources for lasting change, as demonstrated by initiatives like Community Hubs.

John Kania and Mark Kramer’s acclaimed approach to collective impact for large-scale social change identifies five conditions for collective success: a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support organizations. The approach brings non-profits, businesses, government agencies, and the public together to tackle complex social problems. This is what United Way of Calgary and Area does. We are a social impact organization. And as the non-profit sector faces disruption unlike anything we’ve seen before, we’re seeing more and more collective impact work across our city.

We can be more effective in making change and addressing the social issues people in our city face by working together. Consider this a rallying cry for organizations.

When groups begin sharing information and pooling resources, people in communities like Forest Lawn benefit. We talked to Salimah Kassam, executive director at Sunrise Community Link Resource Centre, and Tara Selinger, a community social worker with The City of Calgary, to get the scoop on how they have seen collective impact positively changing lives.

Salimah explains that the lack of connection between different local social agencies often acts as a hurdle for the people that Sunrise Community Link Resource Centre is trying to help. For some clients, Salimah notes, this means jumping through hurdles just to figure out where to get a hot meal or a warm shower. The stronger the collaboration is between The City and local non-profit social organizations, the more streamlined the process becomes for everyone, she explains.

“Much of our daily work at Sunrise is about putting the pieces of the social service system together to create a continuum of care or continuum of help based on each person’s journey towards greater resiliency,” she says.

The Community Hubs Initiative is a great example of collective impact in action. Established by United Way, The City, and Rotary Clubs of Calgary, the Community Hub sites are spread across the city and serve as a place to connect neighbours with each other and resources they may need. Tara credits the Hubs’ success to the collaboration between organizations and sectors.

Soap n’ Suds, a resident-led program offering community members access to safe and clean shower facilities, including towels and toiletries, is a perfect example of this collective impact in action. The program, supported by the Community Hubs Initiative, The Greater Forest Lawn Community Connector Initiative, and Aspen, runs out of the The City’s Ernie Starr Arena and has provided hundreds of showers, hygiene kits, and snack packs to people in need. Designed, organized, and executed by community members in the Greater Forest Lawn area, Soap n’ Suds is a wonderful example of multiple partners coming together to help their fellow community members.

They say it takes a village, and nowadays, Community Hubs are what the village looks like. This is collective impact in action.

Learn more about Community Hubs.