THE BLOG
11/25/2014 12:06 pm ET Updated Jan 24, 2015

The Case for Collective Impact Strategies on the Local Level

A nonprofit doesn't need to be a huge, international organization in order to make its presence felt and make a difference in peoples' lives. While some of the largest philanthropic organizations are focused on making a global impact in their respective areas, efforts on a local level can't be overlooked. Smaller organizations are just as vital in facilitating change and have a lasting positive effect on their community. Even though they share common goals, too often local organizations work independently of one another and compete for funding. This approach is known to many in the social good space as isolated impact, which overlooks the potential effect a collaborative effort can have on a community.

For that reason, there is a different school of thought that has surfaced in the philanthropy community built around collaboration of like-minded organizations. While historically local organizations may have competed with each other for resources and funding, this strategy puts nonprofits in a position to work together in the community with the goal of increasing the overall effectiveness of their programs. The thought process being that many organizations across different sectors working collectively to reach a common goal can have a greater effect on that city's population then each organization working in a silo.

There have been a number of examples of this over the past few years having great success. One example, cited in this article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, highlights a collective effort in Cincinnati that brought together local organizations and public leaders to tackle the achievement crisis the city was having in its public education system. After four years of the program, predetermined success indicators trended positively across a variety of areas including high school graduation rates, fourth-grade reading and math scores, and the number of preschool children prepared for kindergarten. Success stories have also been realized relating to a number of issues including conservation efforts, the fight against childhood obesity and others.

This collective impact strategy is being implemented in the sport for development sector for the first time by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, whose Model City Initiative is being introduced in New Orleans. The Model City Initiative begins with a coalition of sport for development organizations, which joined together for the first time in September to set a vision for sport for development in New Orleans and begin to identify pathways forward as a group. The group determined its main objectives to be the improvement of universal access for youth to get involved in organized sports and an increase in activities that help promote child social development and emotional learning. So while these organizations have long been entrenched in the sport for development space in the city, this is the first time they will come together under such a focused and coordinated collective impact initiative to reach youth throughout the community.

Laureus USA will serve as the backbone of the coalition, providing ongoing coordination and acting as the center of communication for the coalition to ensure this collective initiative is maximizing its efforts. Additionally, an RFP (Request for Proposal) process has been introduced, through which local organizations submitted a proposal to be considered for a grant. The recipients of the grants are being announced this week, and all grantees will become members of the collective impact coalition. This select group will also benefit from increased funding to support their activities and mission. The goal of the coalition is to provide these once disparate organizations support from a national nonprofit that can share their expertise and experience, and help pool the efforts of each member of the coalition for the collective good of the city.

As Chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, I'm excited to see this new model come to fruition in New Orleans in the sport for development space, and believe the opportunities are endless for collective impact strategies throughout the philanthropic world. Nonprofits should never feel like they are hurting each other's growth and potential impact in helping communities - every one of these organizations shares the ultimate goal of helping others, and that should be the focus. Competition for resources and dollars should never get in the way of making the impact we've all set out to achieve. So whether it's sport for development, fighting hunger or any number of global issues, working collectively to better assesses issues and pool resources can make a real difference in peoples' lives. We're all in this together, and there is a great opportunity to improve efforts through collaboration and partnership.