Stuff I’m reading (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

The non-war for nonprofit talent

I can’t quite nail the analogy, but it seems to me that if you took this article, replaced “startup” with “nonprofit” and tweaked the context a bit, it would make for an interesting conversation about the nonprofit sector.

The short version might go something like this: as in the tech startup industry, there are too many nonprofits chasing too little top-flight talent.  They can’t compete on cash.  </analogy ends> So instead they just don’t really compete at all.

 

A paradox, riffing on Marty

Riffing on Marty’s recent post about the ever-lower cost of advocacy group formation… it is true that it is cheaper than ever to start an advocacy organization.  As Clay Shirky observed, that is the real power of the internet, it lowers the cost of finding like-minded people.  However, I think the paradox is that as the cost of forming a group declines, more groups are formed, which actually tends to increase the cost of achieving social change campaign goals.

Why?  So many organizations competing for limited dollars, limited talent, limited attention, press coverage, etc.  This means you have to be better than ever to punch through the noise and achieve critical mass.  Most of the rewards go to the top 1%.  This is not about scarcity vs. abundance, it’s recognizing that public agendas can only have so many items on them at once.

Still sorting through the implications of this.  I do think Marty is right that we need to come up with new approaches to dealing with this fragmentation.

Stuff I’m reading (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Stuff I’m reading (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Collective Impact

I’ve been reading and thinking a bit about “collective impact” lately.  (Here’s the seminal article introducing the buzzword.)  It’s a solid, mostly-common-sense framework for thinking about collaborative/coalition efforts.  There are five elements that define a “collective impact” approach:

  • Common agenda.  If you don’t have a shared vision for change, you can’t really expect to collaborate effectively.
  • Mutually reinforcing activities.  Successful collaborators need to coordinate their activities, play to their strengths, and know their role in the larger effort.
  • Continuous communication.  If you don’t communicate regularly you can’t hope to build enough trust and shared language to collaborate effectively.

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Jon, why are you wasting my time with such obvious folderol?”  Most coalition efforts I’ve seen fulfill these first three conditions pretty well.  Hang in there, it’s the next two that are the most interesting:

  • Shared measurement systems. Hmm, now we’re getting somewhere.  Collective impact suggests that collaborative efforts need agree on a shared set of indicators of success and the systems for monitoring and reporting on those indicators.  Without shared indicators, collaborators have no way to really know if they are succeeding or failing, and no feedback systems that allow them to “course correct” as needed. 
  • A backbone support organization.  Proponents of collective impact assert that successful collaboration efforts need to have a strong, staffed organization at their center, in order to run the collaborative process with sufficient intensity and focus to drive it forward in the face of distractions.  It’s not clear to me whether they think a strong “lead coalition partner” fulfills this condition or not.  (I suspect not.)

It’s these last two points where most collaborations falter, and probably not concidental that they require sustained, long-term resource commitments.  How do collaborations you’re involved with stack up?