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Collective Impact Update

Posted by Joe Antle on April 10, 2020 9:55 AM EDT
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As a fan of organized and structured collaboration projects, especially those which provide beneficial impact on socio-economic issues that cut across multiple geographic regions.....

....I have been a fan of the concept of Collective Impact (CI).  CI is a highly-structured methodology that was initially publicized in 2012 by the Stanford Innovation Review in a couple of strong articles which grabbed my attention.  The CI concept advocated for "cross-sector" collaboration and a structure for achieving that which can be adapted to multiple geographic communities or regions and multiple socio-economic issues.  Links to those two articles that are in the Documents tab of this profile/hub are below:



So, now that we are beginning to move the CareTrek project forward, I thought it would be worthwhile to see what is the latest information on the Collective Impact concept.  Since I believe that CareTrek has two primary purposes, serving as a comprehensive addiction recovery employee assistance program and serving as a platform for community-wide addiction recovery treatment services, figuring out a way to leverage CI and the importance of employees health and wellness and community-wide healthier lifestyles, it seems right to see what's up with CI.

There are many places to go on the Internet to find out such information, but I went to one of my favorite first stops-Wikipedia.  And in reading the information on CI I was surprised to read that there has been a bit of controversy on what the CI methodology's effectiveness has been and what it's true mission ought to be.  (You can read for yourself the Wikipedia information in this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_impact ).

The good news is that the concept continues to capture interest and has been adopted by a variety of cross-sector improvement projects.  However, near the end of the Wikipedia post, I was surprised to read that some distinguished thought leaders in the social work and public service community have written on its shortfalls as a tool for fully improving life in the public sector.  The CI Wikipedia post lists links to many sources, but the most dynamic one was the one written by Tom Wolfe, an expert in community social sector improvements.  From a lay perspective, the gist of the concern is that CI does not fully engage or promote the ultimate purpose of promoting social equity and racial parity.  In reading Mr. Wolfe's article and one that refers to his writings, it seems that the CI model is very prescriptive in identifying and engaging the various sectors of the community which should work together collaboratively to resolve community-wide socio-economic issues such as poverty, health, education, civic engagement, and others but it does not involve full participation by members of the community who do not have social equity, especially as it relates to the poor and certain racial classes.

While the CI model clearly engages members of the nonprofits community, along with government, business, education, and NGOs, it does not explicitly identify community volunteers and formal representatives of the underserved population.  This shortcoming appears to begin to be addressed by the Collective Impact Forum and other groups, but in Mr. Wolfe's view it still is not good enough and the entire CI model should be rethought.  

So, where does that leave us?  And what does it suggest for CareTrek Support Group's secondary purpose of being an evidence-based platform for providing addiction recovery treatment services in local communities?

Not being a well-known academic or expert in the need for projects to have their primary basis in bringing social parity in communities, my opinion may seem myopic.  However, given that disclaimer, here it is:

CareTrek's community platform idea is to take resources that are captured from serving the employee addiction recovery treatment services needs of the employer market and invest them in replicating services for the underserved, perhaps unemployed market.  And we envision that for many, this can lead to careers in the service of helping others succeed in overcoming addiction.  Therefore, I think the inclusion of citizens as representatives of the underserved market is a logical improvement to an established CI model for resource sharing, knowledge sharing and effective action in local communities.  To my way of thinking, adjusting the CI model so that there are both strong representation and engagement of members of the underserved community is an interactive enhancement and fits perfectly in the second mission/purpose of the CareTrek concept-partnering with other organizations to bring the solutions directly to the underserved market.  So, perhaps we could slightly change the name of the CareTrek slogan that we use (Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Employee Assistance Program) and for our second target market, call it Community-wide Addiction Recovery Employment Assistance Program?  In that way, our initial dual focus on improving the productivity and lives of people who are employed AND providing a platform for helping people in the underserved, perhaps unemployed population can be cleverly described with the same brand name-CareTrek?

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