Rapid Evaluation Approaches for Complex Initiatives. Collective Impact

03/31/2014

Developed by John Kania and Mark Kramer of FSG, Collective Impact is a social change process for “highly-structured cross sector coalitions.” In Collective Impact projects, there is “heightened vigilance of multiple organizations looking for resources and innovations through the same lens, learning is continuous, and adoption happens simultaneously among many different organizations.” The approach is based on the implementation of five principles, or “conditions”: (1) the development of a common agenda involving a shared understanding of the problem and a joint approach for solving it, (2) the consistent collection and measurement of results across all participants for mutual accountability, (3) the coordination of coalition participants’ actions through a mutually reinforcing plan of action, (4) open and consistent communication among coalition participants, and (5) backbone support provided by an organization to coordinate the actions of participating organizations and agencies (Kania and Kramer 2013).

Not a rapid evaluation method per se, a Collective Impact project incorporates several action research, DE and systems change evaluation approaches. Collective Impact projects borrow methods from these other evaluation approaches, including the concepts of rapid learning, continuous feedback loops, the collective identification and adoption of new resources and solutions, the identification of patterns as they emerge, and an openness to unanticipated changes that would have fallen outside a predetermined logic model. To provide continuous feedback, the Collective Impact approach does not use episodic evaluation intended to assess the impact of discrete initiatives but promotes the use of complex systems–based evaluation approaches that are “particularly well-suited to dealing with complexity and emergence,” such as DE (Kania and Kramer 2013). They also advocate creating ongoing feedback loops through weekly or biweekly reports, rather than the usual annual or semiannual evaluation timelines.

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