Changescale: Collective Impact for Environmental Literacy in the SF Bay Area

Saturday, February 13, 2016: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Wilson B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Nicole Ardoin, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
ChangeScale is a collaborative partnership among diverse nonprofit, government, and community-serving organizations in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area who, collectively, have interest in expanding the scope and impact of regional environmental education efforts. Started in 2011 by a steering committee with nonprofit and university representation, ChangeScale partners have used the collective impact framework (Kania & Kramer, 2011) to guide their efforts. Through this process, ChangeScale leaders and members have developed a theory of change, begun to pursue collaborative activities, and are expanding access and relevance of environmental education and literacy programs in the Bay Area. 

In this presentation, we will discuss a mixed-methods study that we conducted to reflect on the first three years of the collaborative: its two-year planning process and into the first year of program implementation. Through this research, we learned that the five conditions of the collective impact approach—(1) common agenda, (2) shared measurement systems, (3) mutually reinforcing activities, (4) continuous communication, and (5) a backbone support organization—have been important in moving ChangeScale’s collaborative work toward impact. We also found that the sixth crosscutting principle, equity, was key to our work, as was the “adaptive versus technical” framing of the problem space, as described by Heifetz, Kania, & Kramer (2004).

Our study findings also revealed some limitations in the collective impact framework in terms of the nuances of the problem-defining stage; we uncovered several dilemmas that arose during the collaborative process. These dilemmas included tensions that we describe in three main areas: (1) planning versus action; (2) the use of data to prove versus improve; and (3) stitch versus scratch activities. We will address each of these areas in turn, describing how ChangeScale grappled with these tensions, what the collective impact framework contributed to the balance of these, and how future collaboratives might consider these dilemmas early in the process. We will describe our current activities, including our local school partnerships initiative, and we are eager for discussion related to other collaborative approaches to environmental and climate literacy.