Collective Impact Q&A (Part 2)

August 3, 2017

Collective Impact Q&A (Part 2)

Read the second half of our Opportunity NOW intern Soteria Reid's interview with CNM President and CEO Tari Hughes in this post. (Click here for part 1 of the Q&A.)


Q: What makes you believe the Collective Impact Accelerator is going to be effective?

A: I believe Nashville has a natural tendency to pull together to solve problems and make things happen; it’s in our community DNA. If you look at the growth in our city over the last 10 years, much of that has been possible because we’ve collaborated. When it comes to solving social problems, though, there has been a tendency to try to solve the problem separately and these problems are bigger than any one organization or entity.

More recently, there has been a greater move to collaboration and a real desire across sectors to work together.  All partners supporting the Collective Impact Accelerator believe there is great potential to foster Nashville’s natural collaborative energy towards solving social problems that will improve the quality of life for everyone.  It’s exciting to think of what we can do if nonprofits, government, business, and philanthropy rally around some of the stubborn issues in our community in an organized and thoughtful way that produces positive, measurable results.

The desire and ability to collaborate is there. We want to equip, foster, and facilitate.


Q: Why do you believe that CNM is the best choice to facilitate these programs?

A: I believe we have our finger on the pulse of what's going on in the nonprofit sector. We also enjoy a strong relationship with the local government – the Mayor’s Office in particular. Yet, CNM isn’t political. We aren’t selecting the issues the community needs to address. We are providing a place where groups who have self-identified the issues they want to work on can come for resources. Our only interest remains what’s best for our community and supporting nonprofits in doing what they do best. Given our mission and track record of providing professional development resources for nonprofits, we have the infrastructure in place to house the Collective Impact Accelerator. CNM is well-poised to bring that kind of learning, education, and consulting to this space.


Q: What are some upcoming events, and why are they important?

We’ll launch the Collective Impact Accelerator at the Nashville Collective Impact Forum on August 9. We're very excited about this. It will be a full day of learning about collective impact and is open to anyone interested in the topic. The sessions will be helpful to both new and experienced collective impact practitioners. FSG, the consulting group who published the original article on collective impact and who also hosts the national Collective Impact Forum, will facilitate the day. We’ll also have panels and presentations from local practitioners and thought leaders who have been involved in collective impact initiatives. The forum is a great way to get immersed in the collective impact framework.


Q: What are your short-term goals for collective impact?

A: Short-term we want to get the Collective Impact Accelerator up and running! We also hope for a sell-out crowd at the forum on the 9th, we want to fill seats in the Learning Community, and get our catalyst groups under way. We've hired a wonderful Director of Collective Impact, Erin Aber, and we’ll introduce her at the forum as well.


Q: What is the Director of the Collective Impact’s role?

A: The director will be the key to making this work, period. Erin will be managing the programs and resources of the accelerator. The role won't work in isolation because, naturally, this is highly collaborative work. A number of people and organizations including The Frist Foundation, The HCA Foundation, The Healing Trust, Lipscomb University, Joe C. Davis Foundation, and the Maddox Foundation have been preparing for or supporting this work and have developed a strong foundation to build on. Our new Director of Collective Impact Erin will be coordinating all of that and making sure we stay on track.


Q: What about the long-term? What does Nashville look like if collective impact is successful?

A: Long term, we talk about creating a culture of collective action in Nashville. That when Nashville has a problem, the response is to approach it together. Hopefully, that looks like more efficient and effective responses to our community's big problems using an approach that is truly collaborative including the private sector, the nonprofit sector, and local government. It’s all about quality of life in the long term and making Nashville an even better place to live, because it’s already pretty great!


Q: What will signal to you that this work is succeeding?

A: Back to taking the long view – that’s exactly what we are doing here. It’s going to take time to see if what we are offering is having the impact we hope it will. Like any good collective impact initiative, we are developing success measures. There are output goals, like robust participation in the forum, the learning community, and the catalyst. Beyond that, I think success will be measured by what participants in our forum, learning community, and catalyst programs will be able to achieve. Our hypothesis is that the impact of those working collectively will be greater than those working separately, so we will need to be watching the shared measurements of the initiatives we're fostering for their effectiveness. Not every collective impact initiative will flourish but they will have a better chance of it with the resources available through the accelerator.


Q: What are some of the fears or concerns that people have expressed with regard collective impact, and how do you plan to address these concerns?

A: Change is hard – there’s no way around that. There can be fear of exclusion (not having the voice and participation of the community) and the cost of collaboration can be high. It’s definitely not easy work! Part of the reason it isn’t easy is that nonprofits have had to focus on self-preservation for a long time. Our boards have been charged with the task of preserving the agency; collaboration and working together sounds good as long as you're still able to do everything else that you do. What’s scary, but also exciting, about collective impact is that true participation may mean will have to shift resources and do things differently. Through the accelerator, we want to make change a bit easier which includes thoughtful conversations about equity and stakeholders and helping funders understand the importance of funding both independent and collaborative work 


Q: How are you feeling about the Collective Impact Accelerator in general?

A: Optimistic, up-for-the-challenge, and excited for what this means for Nashville’s quality of life!

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