BB_MapIn the summer of 2016, the Collective Impact Forum published seven interviews with experienced backbone leaders from the US.

David Phillips then summarized the key takeaways from these seven interviews for us in this post. Here’s the short version of his summary:

Keys to sustaining a CI initiative:

  • Evolve scope
  • Diversify funding sources
  • Build capacity of others
  • Know how to speak the language of different types of funders
  • Share credit
  • Build trust
  • Engage the community in authentic ways to foster community ownership
  • Focus on the benefits of partnerships
  • Produce convenings that people want to attend

Character traits and skills we observed about our interviewees (all experienced backbone leaders):

  • Celebrate successes while embodying urgency to do more
  • Have exceptional instinct for managing interpersonal dynamics
  • Are open about their personal and organizational shortcomings

Ideas worth considering:

  • Given the size of their key roles, compensate working group chairs for their time
  • Compensate community members for their participation, but in a thoughtful way.
  • Create an Equity & Inclusion Workgroup to help the whole initiative embed equity in its work
  • Support programs and system-level reforms
  • Reinforce a collaborative culture through communication protocols and high-quality deliverables

Additional thought-provoking comments from our interviewees:

  • To reinforce a collaborative culture, don’t have every organization on the Steering Committee
  • We live in a unique moment where the time is ripe to push for equity. If we don’t push, the moment may be lost
  • To build relationships, you have to sincerely care about people
  • Backbones are not “neutral facilitators,” but “transparent facilitators”
  • Acting together can create just as much (or more) alignment than planning together

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