Collective Impact in Art Education

On March 20, 2013, John Kania, managing director of a consulting group called “FSG,” presented his research into the uses of “collective impact” by the social sector, followed by a discussion with NEA Director of Arts Education Ayanna Hudson. Both Kania and Hudson then took questions from the public. As defined by FSG, collective impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem. The webinar examined how collective impact can help federal, state, and local leaders move forward in a common direction. – See more at:

Notes of Collective Impact Webinar

I took some notes on the outline of this talk, to get you excited about the language and the importance of these ideas. For example, John mentions five strategies in being successful at collective impact:

  1. common agenda,
  2. shared measurement,
  3. mutually reinforcing activities,
  4. continuous communication,
  5. backbone support organization.

He came up with these by doing research across multiple sectors, not just education, not just art. These ideas are for working cross sector in the arts, education, etc. He talks about a mindset shift that is needed to be successful at large-scale change: For example, thinking that is more adaptive (answer not know, solution is complex) vs. technical problem solving (if there is a problem, there is a solution); There is no silver bullet, but silver buckshot—the outlook is further out…as in incremental success over time. Credibility vs. credit was another idea where your would demonstrate your organization is producing results but you were also sharing the spotlight.

3 Phases of Change

There are 3 phases of collective impact, and these map against stuff I used to teach at Teachers College around change as defined by Michael Fullen…initiation, organizing, sustaining. And let’s be clear, this takes time…5, 7, 9 years are more probable than 3 years. John recommends that non-profits and other organizations focus on the issue, not just the organization, pay attention to the relationships between and among organizations, and adopt a longer term expectation, i.e., taking the long view over time.

John also mentioned a book entitled, “The power of positive deviance” which was looking at a really tough problem where only a few adapted and solved it. John Kania’s point, at the end of the day was, “this is the key way to solve large scale social problems: build  knowledge and alignment through shared measurement, regular meetings and backbone organizations.”

This is really a neat set of ideas and an important step forward to solving larger scale problems.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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