Reflections on the Collective Impact Convening

Two years ago, I was at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in Denver, and I went to a workshop that talked about collective impact. I was intrigued, so I wrote it down in my notebook and that evening, I gave it a Google. It was around the time of year where I typically have to re-apply for the Rape Prevention and Education grant that ICADV receives from the Indiana State Department of Health, and after reading about collective impact, I threw out the plan that I had been writing and started from scratch – that’s how excited I was about collective impact!  

Collective impact is a term coined by John Kania and Mark Kramer in their 2011 article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review. While the ideas around collective impact aren’t new (cross-sector collaboration, evaluation, setting shared goals), the synthesizing of these ideas into a single framework has gotten a lot of attention since that article was published. Today, there are dozens of collective impact initiatives around the United States and internationally – and ICADV is working with statewide partners to start an initiative here in Indiana as well.  

To help us in this endeavor, I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Collective Impact Convening held April 2-5 in Austin, TX. It was an incredible three days of networking, learning, and growing as a professional and as a person. Workshops were dedicated to conversation, case studies, and learning about new tools. The keynote presenters were inspirational, sharing with attendees their ideas on equity and leadership. Here are just a few of the highlights: 

  • The Backbone Bootcamp was a pre-conference gathering of organization that serve as the backbone of collective impact initiatives. Presentations covered topics such as the core roles of backbone leaders, collaborative governance, and building culture for collective impact. My favorite part was listening to Paul Schmitz speak about culture – he gave a fantastic presentation, telling a story about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, leaving us with the question, “Who was the leader?” – since a large network of people were involved in leading to the moment that sparked the Civil Rights Movement.  
  • The Convening was kicked off by Vu Le, founder of the blog Vu is an amazing speaker and all around hilarious human being – his presentation was full of pictures of cute baby animals. Vu takes a lighthearted approach to the often very urgent world of nonprofit work – at the convening he got right down to business, calling on collective impact practitioners to do better when it comes to equity and community engagement. I definitely respect a field or movement that knows where it needs to work harder, and invites a keynote speaker to highlight these challenges at an annual conference, engaging practitioners in the constant journey to do better. Oh, and definitely check out Vu’s blog – it will be a great way to start your week! 
  • Amazing keynote presentations continued the next day with Brené Brown presenting about Daring Leadership. I’m a personal fan of Brené – I’m reading one of her books, Daring Greatly, right now and it’s making me think a lot about what it means to be a leader and a human being who dares to “step into the arena.” I’ve already started to make some changes based on some of the ideas she shared with attendees during her presentation.  
  • Austin, TX is a really cool city – amazing barbeque, live music, and (strangely) lots of dogs…I probably saw 50 dogs in the three days I was there! I also had the chance to watch the 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from their roost under the Congress Avenue Bridge. Maybe bats aren’t your thing, but it was a pretty amazing sight!

There is so much more I wish I could share in this blog post – if you want to really dive into what my brain is thinking and learning about collective impact, let me know and I’m happy to send you my notes!  

If you are interested in learning more about the collective impact project in Indiana, please let me know – you can email me at I would love to talk to you about it!  


ICADV Communications Coordinator