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Stanford Social Innovation Review: Reflecting on Collective Impact for Place-Based Social Change

November 29, 2021

In September 2021, Melody Barnes, chair of the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions, led a conversation with four social change leaders who for more than a decade have used collective impact to create collaborative, place-based change.

Participants included Jennifer Blatz, president and CEO of StriveTogether, a national network of local communities striving to achieve racial equity and economic mobility, supporting the success of every child from cradle to career; Geoffrey Canada, founder and president of Harlem Children’s Zone and the recently launched William Julius Wilson Center, nonprofits working to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty with comprehensive, on-the-ground programming that builds opportunities for children, families, and communities; Rosanne Haggerty, president and chief executive officer of Community Solutions, a nonprofit working to achieve a lasting end to homelessness; and Erik Stegman, chief executive officer of Native Americans in Philanthropy, an organization promoting increased and equitable investments in tribal communities that align with Indigenous values.

Effectively Using Data

Melody Barnes: Rosanne, we know that part of what led to the MacArthur Foundation’s recent $100 million investment in Community Solutions is your deep commitment to data and rigor and impact. I want you to tell us a little bit more about what this looks like in the context of your work to end homelessness and how your approach to data has evolved over the past decade.

Rosanne Haggerty: We took this leap 10 years ago with an understanding that good programs were not enough to gain ground on homelessness. A different way of thinking and working was needed to address the fragmentation of responsibility, as well as the lack of accountability in seeing that all of the investments and worthy activities and good programs in a community were adding up to less homelessness.

We started about five years ago, not just doing more quality improvement work, more work with data, but we actually put a different end state out there. We asked what it would take for communities to work together to get to functional zero homelessness population by population—to work toward an end state where homelessness is measurably rare overall and brief when it occurs, and where a new case of homelessness is quickly spotted and resolved.

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