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Community Advancement Projects: Collective Impact Meets Social Equity

Posted by Joe Antle on April 18, 2020 11:25 AM EDT
Joe  Antle photo

The recent update on what is happening lately with Collective Impact and how that can inform CareTrek efforts to serve as a platform for socio-economic.....

....projects that are focused on advancing and strengthening community-wide addiction recovery treatment services and reduced substance abuse revealed significant critical insight around the lack of focus and purpose as a tool for social equality efforts.  In some circles, this criticism is so profound that some researchers and social change activists actually feel that the collective impact concept cannot be fixed to address this component of socio-economic advancement projects in local communities.

In my last blog published on this profile "Update", I shed some light on this finding.  In the piece, I stop short of suggesting one view or the other, but rather simply point out that for some community leaders, the collective impact writing and focus has lacked sufficient involvement or prioritization of efforts, activities, and results that would improve social equality, especially as defined in racial terms.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say that I am neither an expert on collective impact and a fully vested collective impact consultant, nor am I an expert in the fundamentals of driving social change and racial equality as it relates to socio-economic projects for improving issues related to both social and economic improvements based on specific topic areas such as poverty, education, health improvement, substance use recovery and regional issues like sea-level rise, flooding, hunger and so on.

However, in my mind the focus for projects that create positive change and reduces substance abuse and addiction in communities must involve cross-sector collaboration, communication, and coordination of actions and resources focused on the purpose, which is to reduce substance use disorder and addiction across all social segments.  For me, I think including strong involvement and information gathering and activities involving the underserved communities and those that serve them (nonprofits, NGOs, education, private sector employers and public health organizations) is critical.  For me, it is not either-or but rather it is both.

And for CareTrek support efforts that have a community benefit angle, the context is employment.  Being employed is a key to living an active and fulfilling life of purpose.  So, CareTrek as a platform can provide value to employers who seek to help valued employees overcome addiction to reclaim improved careers as well as to nonprofits and community activists seeking to provide employment for those in the underserved, socio-economically disadvantaged community.

In this context, I offer the following refresher on collective impact and suggest strongly that a new term for it, given the need to more fully engage and involve other parts of the community for socio-economic parity's sake is the term "community advancement projects":

The use of key images to think about the WHAT and the HOW of creating healthy communities, particularly in the context of cross-sector collaboration.

The Rankings Model helps us understand WHAT makes a healthy community.  The Take Action Cycle shows us HOW to create a healthy community.  Both can be found in the Photos tab in this CareTrek Support Group profile, in the attachments to this blog and within the following link:

Practitioners of the collective impact methodology as shown graphically in the Take Action Cycle believes that community transformation begins with the steps in the Take Action Cycle, and includes the following key steps.

  • Gather information to assess needs and resources. 
  • Set priorities, so you can focus on what’s important. 
  • Find the most effective approaches to address your priorities, and then … 
  • Get to work on acting on what’s important.
  • Evaluating throughout the cycle will help you improve your strategies and ensure that what you’re doing is effective. 


Communication, Coordination, and Collaboration (Working Together) wrap around the cycle because these activities are essential throughout the cycle.

At the heart of the Take Action Cycle is people working together. We know that when people work together with a shared vision and commitment to improving health, it can yield better results than working alone. 

However, to fully advance improvement in the underserved community members segment it is imperative to involve representatives from the very outset, assign goals, and accountability for action and provide activities and results that include employment improvement opportunities at scale.


This compromise will likely not satisfy the most ardent of social equality experts and activists.  But it will likely improve dramatically the outcomes for the societal segments that are disadvantaged by reducing the negative impact of substance abuse and by driving bolder actions based on upfront focus and engagement all the while improving employment opportunities for those who become actively engaged and for those they represent.


Sometimes the most optimal solutions are not one or the other, but a hybrid that includes both-collective impact meets social inequity and equals community advancement.

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