collective impact

Saving the California Condor: A Collective Impact Story

Stephanie La Loggia, M.A.

Manager of Knowledge Resources
ASU Lodestar Center

Once upon a long time ago, North America was bursting with animals that were really big. Mammoths, mastodons, giant sloths — animals we only know about from their old bones and our good imaginations. The birds were over-sized as well, and when the huge animals died, giant vultures with 20-foot wingspans would swoop down to feast on their carcasses.

And then, they vanished. For reasons scientists still theorize about, most of these large animals went extinct rather quickly. The huge vultures, once plentiful, with all varieties of Eagles, Teratorns, and giant condors, were suddenly hungry. Their food sources gone, the giant vultures soon followed the animals into mass extinction.

Except one: The California Condor.

The California Condor is the sole surviving member of the Gymnogyps genus, a castaway from the Pleistocene epoch. It’s the largest flying bird in North America. If you see one sitting in a tree, you might remark that it is the ugliest bird you’ve ever seen. But when you see it flying, unfettered in the open sky, you’ll undoubtedly think it is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever witness. It has a wingspan of nearly ten feet and can soar for miles without a single flap.

Research Friday: The Real Impact of Collective Impact

posted by
Brian Spicker,
Senior Vice President
of Community Impact
Valley of the Sun
United Way

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. This week, Brian Spicker of Valley of the Sun United Way sat down the with Center's Stephanie La Loggia for a short interview about the meaning of "collective impact." Below is part of the interview.

In Kania and Kramer’s article[1], they discuss the key elements to successful collective impact. Can you talk a little about those key elements?

Brian Spicker: What's wonderful about that article is it’s something I think all of us in the social sector have been working on, they just happened to present it elegantly. But those five elements are: a common agenda. So everyone understands the language, what it is what we’re intending to do, and it’s tied then to metrics, that it’s a shared metric system. So, that’s the second element. The third element, which is really critical, is mutually reinforcing activities. So you have a variety of nonprofits, government, and philanthropic organizations working together — they are doing their own things, but it’s mutually reinforcing that common agenda, it is tying those things together. And showing that it's moving the needle, the metric, forward.

Research Friday: How to Measure Your Organization's True Impact

posted by
Laurie Mook, Ph.D.,
Assistant Professor
School of Community
Resources and Development

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. This week, we're excited to have Dr. Laurie Mook join us to discuss social accounting.

I love the idea of "collective impact." We spend a lot of time and energy focusing on the impact of individual organizations, but how does that translate to the bigger picture? How might things be different if we start thinking about our collective impact?

An area I have been researching for the past number of years is a fairly new field called social accounting. Social accounting considers a much broader range of criteria than conventional accounting and combines economic, social, and environmental criteria when looking at an organization in relation to its role in the larger community. To do this, it looks at the organization's impact on a number of stakeholder groups, such as employees, volunteers, customers/clients, society-at-large, and the environment.

As a former "conventional" accountant, I found a new, yet related calling after traveling the world. Looking back, I was struck at how ahistorical and acritical my accounting studies had been. It was only when I started reading works by critical accountants (another relatively new sub-field of accounting studies) that I began to really think about how conventional accounting models have been constructed.

It was very interesting to reflect about what was included, and (perhaps even more interesting) what was excluded from accounting statements. For example, although many nonprofits rely significantly on the labor of volunteers, volunteer contributions are not included in the accounting statement, except in a very small number of cases. As a result, when looking at nonprofit accounting statements, a large portion of the picture is missing.