Category Archives: Tool Box

About Collective Impact: Types of Problems, Degrees of Change, Learning Loops, and Methods of Thinking

Collective Impact is multi-sector approach to large-scale collaboration that is authentically inclusive of citizens in its development and implementation – in particular citizens who have life-experience with the big problems or issues being addressed, such as poverty, climate change, family violence, and so many more.

Collective Impact is not an approach aimed at creating program changes among a few agencies or undertaking collaboration in order to compete with other community initiatives. Rather, it tends to be focused on efforts to leverage talents, existing services, innovations, and resources in order to effect significant changes to policies and systems and where needed, significant programmatic changes. Such changes might occur within governments or government-run institutions, within education and health institutions, within business, or within service providers.

At recent sessions and workshops I held in Vancouver (Community Change Institute) and in Edmonton (Upside Down Thinking) , I shared a perspective on three types of problems identified by Brenda Zimmerman and how they connect to three types of change, three types of learning, and various types of thinking required in addressing each type of problem. My intent is to help our collective thinking about significant problems/issues facing our communities.

Simple problems are those we can fix easily and are sometimes called kaizen (the Japanese word for “continuous improvement”). Solutions to these kinds of problems are akin to tweaking a recipe or adjusting a process to improve quality or reliability of performance. Typically such changes are incremental.

When confronting these types of problems, we tend to focus on learning how to do things better (to do things right). A primary way to think about these problems is via event-oriented thinking, which is about focusing on events in sequence. This type of thinking is generally about undertaking changes to an “event” that impact the behaviour of employees in their delivery of a service to others. While important to achieving kaizen, this type of thinking limits its scope to causes of the event and does not involve looking at the overall system. Continue reading About Collective Impact: Types of Problems, Degrees of Change, Learning Loops, and Methods of Thinking

Wiki Sites are Great Engagement Tools

Collective Impact is a long-play on community change. Large scale community change takes time and over the life of a Collective Impact initiative, there will be many documents and lists produced and people will come and go as well. Keeping track of the important reports and data can be time-consuming. And imagine coming into the work a year or so in. How would you get up to speed?

A “wiki” is Hawaiian for “quick.” They are relatively easy to build and use and can be used for a project or as a website.  There are many options for building a wiki site. The tool I am showcasing is  Google Sites, which is free to use and allows for integration with Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Calendar and Google Groups.

Features of a wiki site include:

• Collaboration among users no matter where they are located. For example, you can edit documents collaboratively and users can be notified whenever a document is updated.

• Creating or co—creating a Common Calendar that can be embedded in the wiki site.

• Creating and managing a Clearing House of documents, images and other files by theme or topic area that users can view or download. This allows you to have all pertinent documents stored in one place, which provides a historical view of your initiative as well as provides newcomers to your initiative an efficient way to be oriented.

• Create sign up forms for registrations that are automatically displayed as well on the site.

• Create a survey that automatically populates the results of on the wiki site.

• Link to or embed a Google Group to foster discussion on the site among participants.

• Create static webpages and navigation to other wiki pages.

• Display a plan as well as a link to it for downloading.

• Widgets can be used to automatically display recent news that users should know about.

This tool download goes deeper into the pros and cons of a wiki platform and includes some examples of wiki sites I have built for collaborative groups.


This tool is one I developed for a quick session I taught at Tamarack’s recent learning gathering in Vancouver, Community Engagement: The Next Generation. It provides an overview on the NetPromoter score, Likert Scales, the Semantic Differential Scale and Visual scales for collecting and measuring feedback from those you are engaged with.


Why Strategic Planning Goes Wrong

reprinted by request

As a consultant, executive staff member, board director, and teacher, I have had the opportunity to engage in a lot of strategic planning. I think about it, research it, and look for ideas to make it work better than how it tends to work.

It has always bothered me to know that more often than not strategic planning efforts go awry. In another article I wrote on this topic, I stated the biggest reason why strategic plans fail is that people don’t do them. While there is truth in that, the story doesn’t end there of course. It’s why people and organizations fail to do successful strategic planning that deserves some attention.

The difference between Strategy and Plan
Let’s start with what I suggest are some fundamental misconceptions about strategic planning. The biggest misconception is that strategy and planning are one in the same. How often, for example, do you hear people equate strategic planning with a “blueprint” or a “roadmap?” While those words are good metaphors for the word, “plan,” they fail substantially in capturing the meaning of “strategic” or “strategy.” Continue reading Why Strategic Planning Goes Wrong

Journey Maps

Download this tool

Journey maps are used often in the private sector to map out a customer’s experience of a product or service. It identifies customer needs and wants, motivations, and interactions with the product or service from beginning or end.

In terms of a journey map for you collaborative or collective impact initiative, here are some of the things it can do for you:

  • Tell the story of your collaborative journey from initial start through engagement, to where you are today
  • Can be the whole story or part of the story.
  • Identify key milestones, interactions, successes, set backs and other key touchpoints
  • Provide history for new comers
  • Deepen/expand understanding of what works and what doesn’t or of choices that were made or need to be made.
  • Helps visualize where the journey is going.

Journey Maps are visual treatments in which key steps, milestone, and decision points are identified in relationship to each other.

Download the entire Journey Map Handout (PDF).