United Front 2011 Summary

October 11, 2011 in Collective Impact, Events, United Front 2011, United Front Blog Archives by Tania Jones

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United Front 2011 Summary

I had the opportunity to attend United Front 2011 this morning, focusing on Collective Impact. One of the more interesting parts of the morning session was the presentation by Jay Kiedrowski from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs over at the University of Minnesota. In a marvelously data-laden presentation, he made some startling (if sobering) key points.

  • The Minnesota elder population is increasing and it’s going to continue its dramatic increase as the Baby Boomers move into their senior years. By 2030, seniors (age 65+) will outnumber children (ages 5-17).
  • Minnesota has lower child poverty rates than the nation (14% compared to 20%), but from 2000 to 2009, poverty rates here increased much faster than they did nationally (56% increase locally vs. 18% increase nationally). This is a disturbing trend.
  • Home prices will continue their downward march until at least 2014. (Though I recently heard 2020 as a more realistic—or pessimistic—date.)
  • The proportion of income eaten up by healthcare costs increased from 7% in 1970 to about 17% today, and is expected to continue to increase (especially if incomes continue to go down!).
  • The resolution to the Minnesota budget deficit of $5 billion in this biennium was not a resolution but merely a stopgap measure based on borrowing and shifting monies around.

Thus was the stage set for the day.
Mark Kramer, collective impact guru, was the keynote speaker. Kramer is co-founder of FSG, a nonprofit consulting firm, and is also the author of a much-read article on collective impact in the winter 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

He focused on the need for government, corporations, and the nonprofit sector to align to solve problems. Moving to collective impact is a paradigmatic shift in how we address complex social problems (e.g., poverty, education, health care). It’s hard work but the rewards, when successful, are significant. Collective impact is more than collaboration (which in and of itself is not so simple!) and requires five conditions:

  • A common agenda with a shared vision and a single goal.
  • A shared measurement system.
  • Mutually reinforcing activities (different players may address different parts of the puzzle, but they fit into a cohesive whole).
  • Continuous communication (weekly, monthly, virtual and in person).
  • An organization that provides the backbone (infrastructure) of support to the initiative—coordinating the effort, developing and implementing measurement systems, driving the continuous communication, and reporting out.

This was followed by a panel focused on cross-sector innovation and redesign efforts. Cathy ten Broeke spoke about the Heading Home Hennepin initiative with the ultimate goal of ending homelessness in Hennepin County. Jonathan Sage-Martinson talked about the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative which is focused on supporting small businesses during and after the construction of the central corridor light rail line. Les Fujitake talked about the partnership the Bloomington School District is undertaking with Fairview Health Systems, Greater Twin Cities United Way, and the McKnight Foundation—an initiative focused on linking early childhood efforts with K-3 operations to close the achievement gap and improve graduation rates.

Bottom line: We have a lot of work ahead of us. But I left feeling optimistic. I think we can do it. Together, we can get Minnesota back on track and working for all of us!

Elizabeth A. Peterson, Ph.D., Contributor
Director of Research & Planning
Greater Twin Cities United Way