By John Kania & Mark Kramer
Stanford Social Innovation Review Winter 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Leland Stanford Jr. University All Rights Reserved
Stanford Social Innovation Review Email: email@example.com, www.ssireview.org
Large-scaLe sociaL change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet thesociaL sector remains focused on the isoLated intervention of individuaL organizations.
300 leaders of local organizations agreed to participate, including the heads of influential private and corporate foundations, city government officials, school district representatives, the presidents of eight universities and community colleges, and the executive directors of hundreds ofeducation-related nonprofit and advocacy groups. These leaders realized that fixing one point on the educational By John Kania & Mark Kramer continuum—such as better after-school programs—wouldn’t Illustration by Martin Jarrie make much difference unless all parts of the continuum improved at the same time. No he scale and complexity of the U.S. public education system has single organization, howeverthwarted attempted reforms for decades. Major funders, such as innovative or powerful, could the Annenberg Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Pew Charitable accomplish this alone. Instead, Trusts have abandoned many of their efforts in frustration after actheir ambitious mission became knowledging their lack of progress. Once the global leader—after to coordinate improvements at World War II the UnitedStates had the highest high school graduevery stage of a young person’s ation rate in the world—the country now ranks 18th among the top life, from “cradle to career.” 24 industrialized nations, with more than 1 million secondary school Strive didn’t try to create students dropping out every year. The heroic efforts of countless teachers, administrators, a new educational program or andnonprofits, together with billions of dollars in charitable contributions, may have led to attempt to convince donors to important improvements in individual schools and classrooms, spend more money. Instead, yet system-wide progress has seemed virtually unobtainable. through a carefully structured process, Strive focused the enAgainst these daunting odds, a remarkable exception seems tire educationalcommunity on a single set of goals, measured to be emerging in Cincinnati. Strive, a nonprofit subsidiary in the same way. Participating organizations are grouped of KnowledgeWorks, has brought together local leaders to into 15 different Student Success Networks (SSNs) by type of tackle the student achievement crisis and improve education activity, such as early childhood education or tutoring. Eachthroughout greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. In SSN has been meeting with coaches and facilitators for two the four years since the group was launched, Strive partners hours every two weeks for the past three years, developing have improved student success in dozens of key areas across shared performance indicators, discussing their progress, three large public school districts. Despite therecession and and most important, learning from each other and aligning budget cuts, 34 of the 53 success indicators that Strive tracks their efforts to support each other. have shown positive trends, including high school graduation Strive, both the organization and the process it helps facilitate, is an example of collective impact, the commitment of a rates, fourth-grade reading and mathscores, and the number group of important actors from different sectors to a common of preschool children prepared for kindergarten. agenda for solving a specific social problem. Collaboration is Why has Strive made progress when so many other efforts have failed? It is because a core group of community leaders nothing new. The social sector is filled with examples of partdecided to abandon their...