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About the Learning Centre

The Learning Centre, established in 2003, is designed to create a fluid, creative system of documenting community building activity and delivering this learning to organizations. The centre has a threefold purpose: to broadly disseminate knowledge gathered through research and practical experience; to help communities increase their power through learning; and to generate knowledge about community engagement so as to advance the field. Learn more about the Learning Centre here.

Resource Library - Explore Tamarack's community engagement resources - including research, articles and related links.

Be sure to sign up to receive Engage!, Tamarack's free monthly e-magazine, that helps you to stay current on the latest developments in the field of community engagement.

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Beautiful Thinking for September from the Tamarack Institute

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Aligning Multiple Partners in Collective Impact

BY: Liz Weaver

Colourful Arrow © EtiAmmos

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This article first appeared in the July 2015 newsletter of Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Technical Assistance Coordinating Center.

Collective Impact is a collaborative approach that focuses on five core conditions: a common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communications and a backbone infrastructure. It has emerged as a new way for communities to work together. The goal of collective impact is to focus on a complex social challenge and for the community to collectively work towards better outcomes. Collective impact efforts have emerged across many complex issues including improving maternal health and early childhood experiences.

Collective impact requires a variety of different partners to come together and work collaboratively. Successful efforts engage partners across a variety of different sectors to work together at a local level: community organizations, business, funders, government and citizens. Sometimes collective impact efforts also cross boundaries linking partners at the local, state/province or national levels. Looking for synergy and alignment can be a powerful strategy to maximize individual and collective resources and increase the impact and results for the communities.

While a collective impact approach requires coordination of efforts across different partners and different sectors, aligning multiple efforts collaborative and collective impact efforts together can pose additional challenges. The alignment of strategies between collective impact efforts at the local level, the state or national levels can be called the nested effect. To push the metaphor, the nest supports the local partners intentionally through their development phase and then the two partners become equal learners as the initiatives develop and begin to fly.

An important strategy when aligning multiple collective impact efforts is to maximize resources by determining who does what. In the collective impact model, there are six core functions or roles for the backbone: building vision and strategy, aligning activities, supporting shared measurement, building public will, advancing policy and securing resources. In this nested approach to collective impact, the partners at each level should identify which of the roles are best suited to which level.

Read the full article

Learn More:

  • Learn more about aligning efforts and building a common agenda at the Collective Impact Summit in Vancouver, September 28th - October 2nd, 2015!

Building Individual Capacity to Lead

BY: Russell Kueber

NPI Leaders

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Building individual capacity is a key community development principle, yet how many of us often overlook this step in our efforts? We are so skillful in engaging people in developing a common vision and identifying priorities. We often then move right into a project management approach by defining the best activities to implement, who should do them, what resources we need, timelines, and the type of evaluation methodology required. We also often assume that those involved in change efforts are there because they have passion and they are capable and competent to deliver on whatever they signed up for.

But what happens if we don't take time to invest in the development of people? Over time, what could happen to those involved? What would happen to our community change efforts? And eventually, to our communities?
Recently, the Community Health and Social Service Network (CHSSN) and Concordia University developed a community leadership framework to build the capacity of individuals involved in developing community health networks in the province of Quebec. A design team of 15 network members and CHSSN staff participated in the creation of the framework and 20 leadership competencies (skills, attitudes & behaviours). These competencies are deemed most critical to their success as drivers of change in their communities and are organized under four pillars: leading in the English-speaking community, leading networks, leading in the larger community, and leading for the future.

The competencies and framework serve as a guide for the design and delivery of leadership development training to individuals participating in the community health networks - as leadership training and building individual capacity will now become an integrated way of how they work and volunteer in the future.

The framework also includes a self-assessment tool to evaluate your own leadership competencies and guide in the creation of a personal leadership development plan.

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Exploring Belonging in Kitchener-Waterloo

By: Sylvia Cheuy

People on park bench

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We Can Design Belonging, a report recently released by the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation, researched the experience of belonging for residents of Kitchener, Waterloo and Woolwich and outlines an approach to improving people's sense of belonging in their region.

The report confirms, "belonging benefits individuals and communities...and is associated with good outcomes, such as relationship-building, self-growth, helping others, collaborating, being cared for and having fun." Its in-depth look at belonging reveals that this frequently used yet loosely defined concept is the result of a complex array of experiences and contributing factors. Key findings of the report include:

  • Life Transitions Impact Belonging - For individuals, times of transition in one's life such as: immigration, moving, graduating, starting a family, or retiring can be particularly challenging to one's sense of belonging;
  • Newcomers Need Specific Attention - Overall, residents of the region are keen to welcome newcomers but improvement in this area is still needed, particularly for those who have English as a second language;
  • Suburban Community Design Challenges Belonging - Residents in the region's suburban areas face more challenges in establishing a sense of belonging, in part because the design of these areas offers fewer opportunities to interact informally with one another; and,
  • Greater Links between Academia and Community Needed - The region's strong academic community is considered to be quite distinct from the community overall and more should be done to integrate students and faculty into the life of the community.

Students of community will appreciate a section in the We Can Design Belonging report titled "The Opportunity Space" which explores the notion of belonging within the context of changes that are happening both locally and globally to uncover the challenges and opportunities for creating belonging that are unique to our times. Community-builders and facilitators will appreciate the report's "The Methods" section which offers an overview of the various qualitative methodologies used to undertake the research and data-collection used to generate the report's findings.

Few would argue that having a strong sense of belonging is important to both individuals and communities. We Can Design Belonging is to be commended for its contribution to furthering our collective understanding of the factors that contribute to - or undermine - one's sense of belonging and providing a deeper appreciation of the benefits, opportunities and strategies available to those eager to enhance it.

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A Call for Movement Building

BY: Louise Merlihan

Human Chain - © Global Justice Now - https://www.flickr.com/photos/wdm/14857221491/

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Creating a healthy, humane world will require more than new organizational designs, writes Hildy Gottlieb in a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article, Building Movements, Not Organizations. It will take rethinking the nature of organizations entirely.

Gottlieb, co-founder and current acting Chief Mission Officer of Creating the Future, argues that the sweeping social changes of the last century have been accomplished by movements, not individual organizations.

What are the differences between seeing through the lens of a movement versus that of an organization? Gottlieb encourages those of us working in socially minded organizations and businesses to reframe our understanding of success, leadership and means.

For instance, governance of movements is about values, strategy, and direct action, whereas governance in organizations is often about regulatory compliance, oversight, and risk management. Strategy, Gottlieb argues, is most often developed by others in the organization, and then approved by those "in charge."

The social change arena is continually experimenting with new organizational forms, why can't we? Gottlieb's call for movement building urges us to examine the way we organize ourselves to create change and to reconsider what's possible. What does leadership mean? How can our collaborations be more inclusive? What results are we working toward, and have we organized ourselves accordingly to achieve the changes we wish to see in the world?

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Getting to Impact: Beyond Population Level Indicators

BY: Liz Weaver

Growth Bar Chart with blurred business people background ©pannawat

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Collective Impact has increased our focus on moving the needle on population level changes. John Kania, Managing Partner of FSG Social Impact Consultants and author of many articles on collective impact has called this 'positive and consistent progress at scale'. But are population level indicators the only ones that we need to pay attention to when moving toward collective impact?

A number of resources stress the importance of also focusing on systems level indicators as a means of tracking progress and impact. ORSImpact.com presented a working paper at the 2014 American Evaluation Conference called, Impact, Influence, Leverage and Learning (I2L2) Outcomes Framework which is useful for collective impact initiatives to mine systems change and policy influence outcomes in four key indicator areas:

  • Impact outcomes refer to changes in people's lives and are often referred to as population level outcomes. Impact outcomes can also include changes in attitudes, knowledge, behavior, skills, perceptions, beliefs, practices, relationships or conditions.
  • Influence outcomes are changes in system-level practices between organizations, networks, partnerships, policies, practices and community norms. An example of an influence change is that a community focuses increased services in a targeted neighbourhood.
  • Leverage outcomes include an increased commitment of resources, including non-monetary and in-kind resources focused on the change being targeted.
  • Learning outcomes are about field-building and advancing knowledge.

The I2L2 Outcomes Framework provides outcomes statements for each of the four key indicator areas which are particularly useful for those engaging in collective impact efforts focused on policy and systems level changes. The resource also provides practical case studies where the I2L2 Outcomes Framework has been used to articulate the theory of change for initiatives and track a defined set of relevant outcomes.

Similarly, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations has recently developed a resource called Evaluating Community Change: A Framework for Grantmakers which also explores a variety of systems change level indicators. While written from a grantmaker or philanthropist perspective, GEO has identified indicators in eight different areas of community or place-based change:

  • Political, economic and cultural context
  • Baseline conditions
  • Funder levers of change
  • Immediate program outcomes and potential to scale
  • Capacity outcome and changes to systems condition
  • System-level change
  • Scale and sustainability
  • Population-level impacts or outcomes

The GEO framework is designed to help grantmakers determine baseline and community capacity as well as to identify a set of indicators or measures that will represent progress in community change efforts.

Both resources are useful references for communities engaged in collective impact efforts focused at policy and systems change. They complement the Guide to Evaluating Collective Impact developed by FSG Social Impact Consultants and are most useful in helping community change efforts identify the multiple outcome measures embedded in these processes.

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Competition, Collaboration and the Tour de France

BY: Liz Weaver


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I admit it: I am a sports fan. I love the intrigue of competition. There is always at least one protagonist, a villain and many sub-characters. Of all the sports out there, cycling is my favourite, especially the 21 stage races or Grand Tours.

This summer, I travelled to Europe and attended a couple of stages of the Tour de France and I have to say that it lived up to my expectations. The first two stages took place in Holland and it was made more exciting because I attended the event with my nephews, cheering with the Dutch fans as multiple cyclists from that country rode by.

With all the controversy that cycling has faced over the past several years, you might wonder why I am still such a fan - it is the intrigue. Each of the 21 teams entered into the grand tour have 9 riders. These 9 individual team riders have both their own goals they're striving to achieve, but also team goals they work together to attain. On each team there is a mix of riders including a sprinter, mountain specialists, the rider they hope will win the race or GC (general classification) and domestiques or support riders.

There are 21 days of racing in a grand tour like the Tour de France, each with a different aspect - it might be a sprinters' stage or a mountain top finish which means the sprinters will be left far behind. Over the course of the 21 days, the individual cyclists and the teams jostle for position and for the coveted jerseys that are presented each day - yellow for the leading cyclist, green for the sprinters, polka dot for the king of the mountains and white for the best young rider.

The Tour de France is a study in competition, collaboration, negotiation and innovation. In many ways, it parallels community change strategies. Perhaps that is why I enjoy cycling so much; intrigue, challenge and at the end of each day and ultimately the end of 21 days - impact!

The Latest from the Field

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Sherri Torjman

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Tom Klaus

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Alan Broadbent

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Upcoming Events


Collective Impact Summit 2015

September 28-October 2, 2015
Vancouver, BC

The Collective Impact Summit is an exclusive learning experience that will bring you the most current thinking and resources from the emerging field of Collective Impact. It is an opportunity to be part of a dynamic group of practitioners who are discovering new ways to lead, engage, and transform communities by tackling our most complex issues.

Collective Impact Summit 2015

Evaluating Community Impact: Capturing and Making Sense of Community Outcomes

October 27-29, 2015
Montréal, Québec

Evaluating Community Impact: Capturing and Making Sense of Community Outcomes is a three-day workshop intended to provide those who are funding, planning and implementing community change initiatives with an opportunity to learn the latest and most practical evaluation ideas and practices. This workshop will be led by Mark Cabaj and Liz Weaver. Mark is Canada's foremost expert on developmental evaluation and has worked in community change his entire life. Liz runs Canada's largest Collective Impact initiative and consults across North America on issues related to community change. Together, they have designed this workshop to incorporate their practical experiences in developing and measuring community impact initiatives, as well as the challenges they have faced in doing so. Join us in Montréal to gain a deep understanding and appreciation of the dynamic nature of community change and how to measure it!

Evaluating Community Impact 2015

Community Engagement: The Next Generation

November 24-26, 2015
Edmonton, Alberta

Save the Date! We will soon announce the details for the first ever Tamarack three-day workshop for organizational leaders working at community engagement. Be the first to get event details! Express your interest by emailing learnmore@tamarackcommunity.ca.


All about the Collective Impact Summit

Speakers: Liz Weaver, Tamarack Institute
Location: via webinar
DateSeptember 17, 2015 - 12:30 - 1:30 pm , ET

Interested in attending the Collective Impact Summit but still have outstanding questions? Join us for this Q&A session where you can ask questions, listen to what others are asking and leave with all the information you need to decide if this year's Collective Impact Summit is for you.

This webinar will be hosted by Liz Weaver, Vice-President of Tamarack.


Economic Security: Towards an Inclusive Movement for Healthy, Vibrant Communities

Speakers: Annette Case with host Michael Toye
Location: via webinar
Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2015 - 11:55am - 1:00pm , EDT

In the face of increasing wealth inequality and rising poverty rates, economic security is picking up steam as an inclusive, comprehensive solution for healthy, vibrant communities. But what is at the core of this concept, and what does it contribute to the poverty reduction movement? What separates economic security from the many other promising practices that poverty reduction advocates wrestle with? Annette Case, Senior Consultant and Project Manager with the Insight Centre for Community Economic Development, and Michael Toye, Executive Director of the Canadian CED Network, will explain the ins and outs of economic security, share example impacts, and dive into an inclusive framework that is shifting attitudes and creating positive change.




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About Engage!

Engage! e-magazine is published to bring you inspiration, ideas, and resources to envision and create vibrant communities. We would love your ideas to help us improve our format. Please email us with your comments.

Engage! e-magazine is brought to you by:

Tamarack Institute
140 Westmount Rd N 
Waterloo, ON
N2L 3G6, Canada
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Email: tamarack@tamarackcommunity.ca
Web: http://tamarackcommunity.ca