Magazine article Policy & Practice

Director's Memo

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Director's Memo

Article excerpt

As another year draws to a close, I'm struck by one recurring theme--echoed both in our members' Pathways initiative and in the comparable efforts underway with so many of our partners--a resolute focus on achieving better outcomes for those we serve through collective impact.

This notion of "getting to impact" through the collective efforts of government and private sectors came to the forefront at our recent CEO Retreat held in Cambridge, MA, as part of the third Harvard Human Services Summit.

Dennis Richardson, president and CEO of the Hillside Family of Agencies, was among several leaders of nonprofit human service agencies who joined public-sector leaders at the retreat to discuss how we can collectively transform our field. Dennis noted that "we are significantly stronger together than we are apart" and challenged his peers in both sectors to focus on solutions that move beyond our traditional approaches and focus on making a collective impact based on the expertise and resources within and across each sector. Similarly, Margaret McDuff, CEO of Family Service of Rhode Island, spoke about the need to move to a "co-creation model" where both sectors "work on solutions together--ALL the time."

Susan Dreyfus, former secretary of the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, and now president and CEO of Families International and the Alliance for Children and Families, highlighted some of the key drivers influencing the nonprofit sector. These include: the cumulative impact of the great recession (i.e., flat contract rates, increased service demand, declining resource pool); a move from mere program outputs to understanding community impact and root causes; the significant activity occurring in states and localities on health care reform; a focus on home- and community-based care and systems of care principles across systems; and significant knowledge and technology advancements. Public-sector agencies have also seen the impact of these drivers in their own work--either directly or in how services are delivered through their network of nonprofit-sector providers. The question before us is how we better align our respective responses to these challenging times and leverage the opportunities for change.


Citing the Alliance's Disruptive Forces report, (1) Susan noted key factors for advancing our collective work:

* Purposeful Experimentation. Susan described the need "to be in beta testing all the time" and to allow for greater risk-taking, recognizing that "failure will sometimes happen."

* Information Liberation. She stressed the need to more effectively utilize data analytics in order to move beyond the linear transformation of information to a more robust understanding of what the data are telling us we need to do. …

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