Collective Impact: Learning and adapting

November 22, 2016

seniors-logo-nov-newsletterInnoweave continues to support nine collaboratives across Canada with implementation of collective impact approaches to reduce seniors social isolation.

During October, the Toronto ENRICHES collaborative held a session to share what they have learned in their first year of implementation. The ENRICHES collaborative consists of: Sinai Health Foundation, Sinai Health System- Reitman Centre, Woodgreen Community Services, North York Community House, Canadian Mental Health Association, and Alzheimer Society Toronto.

Collaborative members are partnering to change the way seniors social isolation is tackled, and by working differently, they will ultimately deploy strategies that will reduce social isolation among senior caregivers across Toronto. Some of their emergent ideas include new ways of identifying, engaging and supporting senior caregivers, in particular ethno-cultural and marginalized caregivers.

This learning discussion is meant to reflect outcomes beyond project level outputs, and to uncover and explore the challenges of implementation, partnership, and collaboration as the group evolves its model and approach.  Collaboratives use this as a chance to share their developmental/emergent learnings and consider strategies for moving these strategic opportunities forward. The discussion is also an opportunity for a range of stakeholders to explore how Collective Impact works on the ground.

In preparation for this learning discussion, ENRICHES has held a number of reflection and strategic planning sessions over the last quarter. The collaborative was able to identify challenges, success and opportunities moving forward while positioning their learnings as actionable pieces within the current lifecycle of the project.

In less than a year, ENRICHES has managed to establish itself as a cohesive collaborative that is organized by a shared outcome/goal. The group has established strong governance systems, shared and individual monitoring and evaluation frameworks, clear lines of communication, and integrated programming. Some of the key sessions that have supported ENRICHES getting to this point during the quarter were (captured in Figure 1):

  • A reflection session held with developmental evaluators and the Program Managers Committee
  • A backbone and developmental evaluator shared learning/ideation session
  • Collaborative meeting to confirm principles established in the learning session, and to prioritize broader emergent strategies
  • Strategic clarity session with an Innoweave coach to further distill the learnings and opportunities and begin positioning strategic actions

Figure 1: Evolution of Emergent Outcomes and Direct Engagement with Coaches


As a collective, ENRICHES has engaged over 1,600 isolated caregivers, trained over 900 professionals and volunteers, and begun to build 80 multi-sectoral partnerships in hopes of creating systems level impact. The collaborative is supported by a team of Developmental Evaluators that have advanced ENRICHES members to develop principles of implementation and identify emergent pathways that the collective will explore over the project life.

ENRICHES has experienced key learnings that are important for those currently implementing or thinking of implementing a Collective Impact approach. Some of their most salient insights include:

  • It takes time to build systems, relationships, and programs that support the maturity of your collaboration and collective impact
  • An intentional drive to systems change must be complemented by structures and systems that support the very nature of systems change
  • Project implementation may very well outpace collaboration and having open communication (and the systems that support this) can bridge the two
  • Collective impact outcomes emerge over long-periods of time, but learning and adapting is ongoing
  • Reaching isolated individuals is tough work and you have a far greater chance of engaging this population if you get out to where they are

ENRICHES will continue to expand its reach by leveraging new partnerships, especially at a systems level. Over the next year, the collaborative will continue to look for opportunities to integrate its work amongst key stakeholders. Social research and development will become ever more important as the group begins to co-develop actions within their collaborative, and as a guiding principle, alongside isolated senior caregivers in the communities where they reside.