Our nation is facing some of the greatest challenges in a generation.


And while our nonprofits, philanthropists and other social sector leaders have stepped up to fill gaps, increase their impact and serve more people in need, we know that the social challenges we face today are too complex for any single actor to fully address on their own. We know that dramatic, community-wide progress on a problem requires the engagement of all sectors in a community: nonprofits, business, philanthropy and government pulling together, in the same direction.

The encouraging news is that this kind of collaborative progress is happening in a number of communities around the country. A recent analysis completed by The Bridgespan Group for the White House Council for Community Solutions identified 12 communities across the country where there has been 10%+ progress on a community-wide metric, and another 100+ communities that are making progress in this direction. The analysis also identified a set of characteristics common to these collaboratives that were compiled into a framework to help leaders across the country drive large scale change to achieve collective impact in their communities. The common characteristics of success shared by the most effective collaboratives include:

  • A shared vision and agenda
  • Effective leadership and governance
  • Deliberate alignment of resources, programs and advocacy toward what works
  • Dedicated capacity and appropriate structure
  • Sufficient resources

It is also worth noting that there is growing consensus around this strategy. In the February 2011 Stanford Social Innovation Review article Collective Impact, FSG made a strong case for nonprofits, governments, businesses and the public to work collaboratively to alleviate complex social issues; in doing so, “collective impact” could lead to powerful results, including significant social change.

Successful community collaboratives require resources and support for their infrastructure needs, as well as the opportunity to engage with like-minded practitioners to share ideas that will amplify their collective impact. To address this need and build on the work of the White House Council, the Aspen Institute launched the “Aspen Forum for Community Solutions,” chaired by Melody Barnes, former Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council for President Obama. Stephen Patrick – formerly with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is the Executive Director and drives the mission of The Aspen Forum for Community Solutions.