Harvard Business School Learns About Collective Impact from UWSL!

by Ann Lombard
Harvard Business School Research Associate

Professor Allen Grossman and I had the pleasure of visiting United Way of Salt Lake to observe Collective Impact in action. Our interest in this approach to community change stems from HBS’ U.S. Competitiveness Project, a multi-year, research-led effort to understand and improve the competitiveness of the United States.

Leaders from all parts of our society agree that a high-functioning public education system is critical for providing the needed workers for America’s future competitiveness. The particular focus of the project that brought us to UWSL, is the role the business community can play to improve public education.

Our research led us to three ways that the business community can most effectively partner with education leaders to bring about deep and lasting change in public education:

  • Laying the policy foundations for education
  • Scaling up proven innovations that boost student outcomes
  • Reinventing the local education ecosystem in cities and regions

As an approach to reinventing the local education ecosystem, we are particularly excited about the transformational potential of Collective Impact and visited Salt Lake City to learn more about the work going on there.

DSCN1586We were not disappointed! We saw the product of United Way of Salt Lake’s data-driven, aligned community Promise Partnerships. We learned how educators work with multiple stakeholders to identify student needs that fall outside of what a school traditionally provides, but that can impact students’ ability to learn – adequate dental and vision care, for example. We heard from multiple stakeholders about how these efforts are helping school leaders achieve their mission of improving outcomes for students.

While we can not capture in this short blog post all that we learned from our visit, we were most excited to observe, first-hand, Collective Impact work implemented so effectively. We left more confident than ever of Collective Impact’s potential for community change and deeply appreciated the essential role of United Way of Salt Lake as the backbone organization.

Thank you for your gracious hosting of our visit and for the work you are doing to change the lives of people in your community!

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