Collective Impact and Backbone Organizations

Many communities and nonprofits now use the collective impact model to effect long-lasting change. If you’re not familiar with the term collective impact, it is a relatively new model that encourages individual organizations to combine initiatives to address complex social problems in large-scale, collaborative ways.

One cornerstone of collective impact is the presence of one or more backbone organizations. A backbone organization is one that, as its name implies, provides structural, behind-the-scenes support to collaborating partners.

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation is one of Greater Cincinnati’s backbone organizations. Through GCF and other regional backbone organizations, collective impact partners receive infrastructure, strategy, measurement, funding, and other system-level assistance.

Shiloh Turner, Vice President for Community Investment at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, has been instrumental in bringing Cincinnati’s Facts Matter data portal to life. Facts Matter, developed by HealthLandscape, is one tool among many in Greater Cincinnati’s collective impact efforts.

Shiloh and coauthors Kathy Merchant, John Kania, and Ellen Martin recently wrote a four-part article, “Understanding the Value of Backbone Organizations in Collective Impact,” for the Stanford Social Innovation Review. We’ve linked to the article below.

Part 1: Making a Commitment to Strengthen Backbone Organizations
Part 2: Key Learning: What Backbone Organizations Do
Part 3: Results of Inquiry: What We Learned
Part 4: What Next? Leading and Learning into the Future

Has your community adopted the community impact model? If so, what backbone organizations exist to support the model?

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