Shared measurement tools build collective impacts: Part 2

One of five collective impact conditions that typically exists is the commitment of partners to a shared measurement system.

In a February 3, 2014 Michigan State University Extension article, collective impact was explored as a means to addressing complex social problems. Community food issues like food access or food security do not have simple solutions that one entity or organization can address. Bringing diverse food system stakeholders together in a concerted effort can lead to an effective long term food security solution through synergistic and coordinated actions.

According to the 2011 John Kania and Mark Kramer article, five conditions are typically present in order to produce true alignment and meaningful change in complex social problems. This article will focus on one of those conditions: developing a shared measurement system.

In Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work, Kania, Kramer and Fay Hanley Brown describe shared measurement as the use of a common set of measures to monitor performance, track progress toward goals and learn what is or is not working. Typically, results-oriented evaluations have been conducted by single organizations. Expanding evaluation efforts to include the efforts of multiple organizations can be challenged by competing paradigms and apprehension from the partners.

However, a shared measurement system can be useful in establishing a common language between partners and clearly defining expectations. Encouraging the alignment of goals and demonstrating the progress toward a common agenda can be further motivated by using a common measurement approach. A shared measurement system can also foster the need for mutually reinforcing and synergistic tactics that work toward common indicators and outcomes.

In the past couple of years, the advent of several online evaluation platforms allows multiple stakeholders to engage in a common system with less expense and more transparency. Entering “survey tool” into an online search engine will generate several tools, many of which free. Strong leadership and staff support from a backbone organization can make this condition of collective impact easier to accomplish and longer-term solutions to complex social problems more achievable.

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