By Arielle Reid, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Pride is an important human emotion.  It is a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.  For pride to provide us with positive self-regard, that sense of deep pleasure and satisfaction, it needs to be accompanied by a state or quality of being dedicated to the thing that is the source of our pride.  On the surface, the Collective of Southwestern Oregon (CSO) is an affiliation of organizations and people working at the intersection of health, community building, education, and housing.  In reality, the Collective of Southwestern Oregon is a group of people who believe in mobilizing community pride and dedication to making Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine healthier, more resilient and better places to live.

How do we plan on fulfilling this mission?  We have chosen to use the collective impact model.  Collective impact works from the premise that there are too many organizations working in isolation.  Collective impact brings them together in a structured way to achieve social change.  The structure requires participants to build a common agenda, establish shared measurements, engage in mutually reinforcing activities, constant communication and pick a backbone leader to coordinate these efforts.

In October, the CSO participated in the Collective Impact Forum in Pittsburgh, PA.  The conference is the Individuals from all over the United States and internationally gathered together for 3 days of workshops, problem-solving and targeted learning around the collective impact model to deliver lasting community engagement and change. The topics covered conference provides professional development to backbone leaders; encourages peer learning among backbone teams; and shares new insights on the work of backbones from the field.

Topics explored include:

  • Clarifying the roles and leadership characteristics of the backbone leader
  • Incorporating equity in collective impact work
  • Fostering community collaboration and co-ownership in the initiative
  • Building collaboration with funders, partners, and stakeholders
  • Developing and learning from shared measurement
  • Evaluating collective impact
  • Sustaining momentum for collective impact initiatives over the long-term

One of the biggest pieces that CSO members took with them was how collective impact changes their organizations’ relationships to communities.  Collective impact projects work best when the organizations participating recognize when their activities should walk in front, walk alongside and walk behind community efforts.  Walking in front of community efforts means taking the lead, framing the message and educating people as to why an issue is important.  An example of this would be the work that NeighborWorks Umpqua did on Ballot Measure 102 in November 2018 to promote local governments having more tools to build affordable housing.  Walking alongside community efforts means making sure that activities of the organization complement and support the work the community is already doing.  Walking behind community efforts means allowing community needs and perspectives to direct and dictate the CSO’s response and marshal the CSO’s resources in service to that response.

It is by walking behind, alongside and in front of the communities we serve that we, as organizations, can contribute to community pride and participate in demonstrating our dedication to the places we live and work.