According to a new Bridgespan study conducted at the request of the White House Council for Community Solutions, multi-stakeholder collaborations that have achieved "needle moving" change share common operating principles and characteristics of success.
The study, Needle-Moving Community Collaboratives: A Promising Approach to Addressing America's Biggest Challenges (17 pages, PDF), found a dozen examples of community collaboration that have effected significant change against a community-wide goal, eighty to a hundred that are actively working toward such a goal, and another five hundred in the planning stages.
Among other things, the report identified four common operating principles among successful collaborations — commitment to long-term involvement, participation of key stakeholders across sectors, the use of data to set the agenda and make improvements over time, and engaging community members as substantive partners — as well as five key characteristics of success: having a shared vision and agenda; effective leadership and governance; alignment of resources, programs, and advocacy; dedicated staff capacity and appropriate structure; and sufficient funding.
When it comes to supporting community collaboratives, local leaders interviewed for the study told the report's authors that those outside the community could help by spreading "the word," encouraging donors and government to support the staffing and resource needs of collaborative efforts, and increasing access to technical assistance and information sharing among groups doing similar work.
"This research underscores the potential of community collaboratives to help communities do more with the same or fewer resources," said Willa Seldon, a Bridgespan partner and one of the authors of the study. "Partners in community collaboratives are forging a path to investing limited resources in what works to transform lives and neighborhoods....We sought to understand better how these collaboratives have been working, what they have achieved, and what lessons their experience holds for other communities."