Mutually reinforcing activities build synergy and collective impact: Part 3

One of five collective impact conditions is an assortment of mutually reinforcing activities that produce meaningful change.

As previously reported in a Michigan State University Extension article, a collective impact framework provides a potential structure for addressing complex social problems like food access or food security. Complex food system challenges usually do not have one simple solution that an individual entity or organization can utilize to remedy the issue.

In a 2011 report, John Kania and Mark Kramer shared that five conditions are typically present in order to produce true alignment and meaningful change to complex social problems. This article will focus on one of those conditions: mutually reinforcing activities that build synergy. When food system stakeholders from both traditional and non-traditional sectors are working on an issue in the food system they do not always have to do the same work or play the same role. Instead, they can take on separate but complementary activities that build on the work of each other and reinforce an agreed-upon common agenda.

Questions organizations may ask themselves in a collective impact framework could be:

  • How is my work impacting the common, well-defined agenda?
  • Is there a clear understanding of what others are doing to meet the goals?
  • How does my work influence, reinforce or build synergy with the work of my partners and vice versa?

These kinds of strategic and coordinated efforts cultivate the power and outcomes of collective impact. Essentially, stakeholders work on their piece of the puzzle, and when assembled collectively with the overall work of the group, a complete picture, or solution, is created. Often this type of approach in the food system can be observed in a well-organized and multi-organizational food council. Michigan State University Extension Community Food System staff members are located throughout the state and are assisting communities interested in working toward complex food system solutions.

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