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There’s a crack in everything…. That’s how the light gets in. (Leonard Cohen)

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

‘The community has to prepare itself and has to change the way they do business at a community level. We are not skilled enough at governance, yet we are responsible. These are our jobs. This is our shop. This is our community. We get to make the choices. What’s our solution now?’ (Roebourne, 2019)

‘We want a strong future for our people; we want to let the people know there are opportunities. We have forgotten our own people. We left them behind. And we need our children to go to school so when it is their turn, they do understand this governance role.’ (Port Augusta, 2019)

‘‘This is the biggest agenda today – to equip our people to make change'

(Jordan River, 2020)

Climate emergency, pandemic crisis and civil unrest…… Contemporary conditions undeniably demand a widespread change of approach in the management of our lives and our environment to match opportunity with the diverse and inequitable reality. For those of us working to enable social change, complexity has become increasingly confounding. And yet, within the framework of a place-based, collective impact approach, there might already be signposts to resilience, self-determination and collective accountability.

So, what would it take to create the resilient communities demanded of our current world? What would the impact be economically if community members truly joined hands to become change makers determining their own future and acting with a sense of shared responsibility? And what might be the lead time to achieve this change against the barrage of constant disruption?

Against the suppression of COVID, a light has appeared and the time is right to explore this opportunity. During 2020, across Australia and around the world, local communities have been required to create their own opportunities; giving their time and effort to create better outcomes for their families, friends, and neighbours. We have refocussed on local solutions and local markets. Our governments are now shaping the conditions of our re-emergence and embedding a range of policies to support a whole of system, life-course approach to achieving equity, participation and wellbeing.

In Tasmania, we have worked with Connected Beginnings Jordan River and the state-wide Collective Impact initiative, Collective ed., to build a common language across the state to connect and support Collective Impact initiatives. This is matched with a whole of government ‘Child and Family Wellbeing Framework’ which aligns the state to a common view of success in relation to holistic wellbeing. The stage is set for big change.

After twenty years of practice, we are increasingly confident that the very principles that create the conditions for change using Collective Impact can, themselves, create sustained outcomes which are essential in the establishment of fit-for-purpose responses in these times. We have watched communities continue to embed inquiry cycles to adapt and grow over each of those 20 years. We have seen established leadership flourish and young leaders find their agency. We have seen lives change and have observed a renewed sense of pride and identity across many communities.

Collective Impact practitioners accept that high leverage and aligned actions can lead towards intergenerational impact in the challenge areas that matter most to community. Further though, at CMM we have witnessed the possibility that the application of the principles themselves can create long term advantage across whole populations, strengthening whole communities and building aspiration and capability:

Container for Change builds a self-organising community that can tackle any challenge Community mobilisation creates an inclusive society with a sense of shared responsibility Capacity building encourages resilience, confidence, individual growth and heightens social capital Strategic learning enables an informed community with the knowledge they need to authentically participate in decisions that affect their lives Sustainability grows emergent community leadership to address change long term

These are the qualities local communities increasingly need to nurture as they are buffeted by constant change forces.

And remarkably, the light emanating from these new qualities and characteristics begins to emerge early in Collective Impact communities, becoming exponentially birghter, as tangible change is registered on the ground.

This very fact has implications for what we measure in Collective Impact and how and when we measure it. While we will continue to work to turn the curve on specific social challenges, let’s also turn our minds to the business of purposefully creating stronger, aligned communities. The opportunity for governments, funders and community in supporting this form of investment could be profound.

It is in Australia’s interest to strengthen and extend an integrated, place-based Collective Impact approach because the model provides community-owned solutions that are tailored to individual community needs. It empowers people to be part of the solution and make the most of all the opportunities that life within our country has to offer. The crack is widening and the light is clearly visible. Our communities are increasingly ready. The choice to continue in the ways we have always operated, or rather, to reimagine the approach, is ours to make.


‘My advice to those just beginning this approach is to have trust. Have trust in something you may not know about fully yet. Your trust will grow as your journey grows and it’s an experience that will be impactful, challenging and enriching for the whole community.’ (George Town, 2020)

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