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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

April 2018


What research is available on the implementation and impact of collective impact initiatives?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on the implementation and impact of collective impact initiatives. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Cochran, J. A., Gardner-Andrews, A., Benson, P. W., Durbin, T., & Peeler, M. (2017). What’s RITE in St. Louis? Empowering urban youth through a community tutoring collaborative. Education and Urban Society, 49(8), 711–730. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This study profiles tutoring programs that empower urban youth within the Regional Institute of Tutorial Education (RITE), a community collaborative of universities, youth agencies, community service organizations, and school districts. Representative members of RITE detail how they address shared urban problems of academic deficits, school dropout, and pregnancy in St. Louis’s urban school districts. Tutoring models of targeted, cross-curricular, collaborative, community directed, and youth-led instruction are described as delivered by Gene Slay’s Girls & Boys Club of St. Louis (GSGBCSTL), the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the Clayton-Ladue Rotary community service organization, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), a nationally licensed college preparation program and Conscious Choice (CC), a University of Missouri-St. Louis and St. Louis University student retention and pregnancy prevention program. Data, narratives, and tutoring structures describe how some members of the RITE collaborative assist in addressing both the academic and social needs of urban schools. The achievements of these RITE members demonstrate how frequently unrecognized and underutilized university and community resources are able to empower urban youth.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Forum for Youth Investment. (2014). Collective impact for policymakers: Working together for children and youth. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “With so many different types of support needed to help meet the diverse needs of young people, no one person, institution, or organization can provide everything that parents rely upon to help children and youth succeed. Numerous organizations need to play various roles, and must do so in a coordinated fashion, in order to meet the needs of today’s youth. Government policies must change to help partnerships improve the lives of young people through the power of collective impact. This report examines how federal, state, and local policies impede collaboration in the child and youth field, as well as how they can enhance collaboration.”

Garber, M., & Adams, K. R. (2017). Achieving collective impact: Reflections on ten years of the University of Georgia Archway Partnership. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 21(1), 6–29. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Collective impact is a model for achieving tangible change and improvement in communities through a series of well-defined parameters of collaboration. This article provides a 10-year reflection on the University of Georgia Archway Partnership, a university-community collaboration, in the context of the parameters of collective impact. Emphasis is placed on the backbone organization and the opportunity for universities to serve as backbone organizations. The outcomes achieved through the Archway Partnership support the principles of collective impact and demonstrate the viability of a new model that could facilitate university-community engagement for regional and land-grant universities.”

Geller, J. D., Doykos, B., Craven, K., Bess, K. D., & Nation, M. (2014). Engaging residents in community change: The critical role of trust in the development of a Promise Neighborhood. Teachers College Record, 116(4), n4. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Background: Currently, there is great enthusiasm surrounding place-based initiatives for school reform, such as the Harlem Children’s Zone, Promise Neighborhoods, and other initiatives that attend to the multiple contexts that influence child development. However, past efforts to bridge schools, families, and communities have been undermined by mistrust between and among stakeholders. Although trust is a building block for effective collaboration, there is little deliberate attention to cultivating it Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to use a case example of a low-income neighborhood currently developing a Promise Neighborhoods initiative to explore how variations in trust between and among community residents, local institutions, and school staff in the problem definition and assessment phase may threaten or facilitate the success of the initiative. Setting: We conducted this study in a low-income, predominantly African-American neighborhood in a midsize southeastern city. Participants: There were 44 participants, including parents, school administrators and staff, service providers, and high school students. Research Design: We used qualitative research methods, including eight focus groups and observations. Data Collection and Analysis: Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Multiple researchers coded the transcripts. Trust emerged as a key theme through open coding, and we used focused coding to explore this theme in detail. Findings: The findings corroborate previous studies that have found relatively low levels of relational trust between residents, between residents and local institutions, and between residents and school staff. Additionally, we identified ‘seeds of trust’ that indicate opportunities to cultivate trusting relationships between stakeholders that can be developed and replicated in this neighborhood and others undertaking similar initiatives. Conclusions: Promise Neighborhoods and similar initiatives should intentionally address low levels of trust through activities such as community asset mapping, programs with a deliberate relational focus, and partnerships with agencies that address the systematic roots of trust.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Henig, J. R., Riehl, C. J., Houston, D. M., Rebell, M. A., & Wolff, J. R. (2016). Collective impact and the new generation of cross-sector collaborations for education: A nationwide scan. New York, NY: Columbia University and Wallace Foundation. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Collaborations in which school systems, state and local governments, businesses, community organizations and nonprofit institutions work together to improve educational outcomes for children and youth have existed for more than a century. This publication describes the landscape of collaborations today and trends in their location, reach and other matters. The report identifies 182 cross-sector collaborations in education operating in the United States as of January 2015. Most were established before 2011, the year that consulting firm FSG coined the term ‘collective impact,’ which has become a popular way to describe a specific approach to these collaborations. Across the variety of collaborations, the researchers found:

  • A substantial number predate the contemporary ‘collective impact’ movement and are still operational, offering encouragement that the general idea of collaboration is indeed viable. Nearly 60 percent of the 182 initiatives in the scan were launched before 2011, and nearly 20 percent before 2000.
  • Most efforts target their work at an area larger than a city, potentially providing the collaborations with access to a wider range of resources.
  • Efforts are often affiliated with national networks that have the potential to encourage learning across programs, sharing of resources, and strengthening of national visibility and political clout.
  • The collaborations report data on a range of indicators, focusing most often on student test score performance and high school graduation.
  • Collaborations vary in their governance structures. Business, higher education and social services are most likely to be represented on formal governing boards.”

Hill, D., Herts, R., & Devance, D. (2014). The Newark Fairmount Promise Neighborhood: A collaborative university-community partnership model. Metropolitan Universities, 25(2), 127–153. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The recent awarding of a Promise Neighborhood Planning Grant to Rutgers University-Newark demonstrates how the institution’s leadership has promoted a vision and mission that fosters an institutional climate supportive of community engagement. This paper discusses how Gray’s (1989) partnership development framework and Kania and Kramer’s (2011) conditions of collective success have been integrated to document and assess this transformative initiative in the city of Newark, New Jersey.”

Jones, B., Croft, M., & Longacre, T. (2017). We’re all in this together: How one university drew on collective impact principles to advance student success in higher education. Metropolitan Universities, 28(4), 53–64. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Student attrition rates in higher education are an ongoing concern in the U.S, and are costly to students themselves, colleges and universities, and the economy in terms of dollars and human potential. Thus, the need to identify solutions to student attrition is pressing for both students who are enrolled in institutions of higher education today, and for multiple generations of students yet to enroll. This article discusses collective impact as a model of intervention at an urban university and the quest to promote institutional efficacy around student retention and graduation strategies in partnership with internal (on-campus) and external (off-campus) constituents.”

Kania, J., & Kramer, M. (2011). Collective impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations.”

Kania, J., & Kramer, M. (2012). Channeling change: Making collective impact work. Stanford Social Innovation Review. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This follow-up on the popular ‘Collective Impact’ article provides updated, in-depth guidance.”

Karp, M. M., & Lundy-Wagner, V. (2015). Lessons from the Corridors of College Success Initiative: An introduction (Corridors of College Success Series, CCRC Research Brief, No. 59). New York, NY: Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “‘Collective impact’ is a new place-based model of educational and social intervention that aims to shift responsibility for improvement in outcomes from individual organizations to entire systems that affect the lives of people in a particular location. CCRC’s ‘Corridors of College Success Series’ provides insights into collective impact efforts in the postsecondary sector, drawing on qualitative research in five communities participating in the Ford Foundation’s Corridors of College Success initiative. The Ford Foundation supported these communities as they planned, organized, and applied a collective impact or place-based approach in order to improve pathways into and through college and into family-sustaining careers for low-income and first-generation students and other vulnerable populations. This brief provides an introduction to the collective impact model and the Corridors of College Success initiative. Subsequent briefs in the series will focus on key areas of concern for practitioners, policymakers, funders, and researchers engaging in place-based collective work--including implementation issues, ‘backbone’ organizations, postsecondary engagement in collective impact, funders and funding, and community voice.”

Karp, M. M., & Lundy-Wagner, V. (2016). Collective impact: Theory versus reality (Corridors of College Success Series, CCRC Research Brief, No. 61). New York, NY: Community College Research Center, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Collective impact is an increasingly popular approach to addressing persistent social problems. It takes a place-based systems approach to social change and compared with other forms of collaboration is meant to be more structured and strategic. Such an approach is intuitively appealing, and it has the support of stakeholders at the local level, the state level, and even the White House. However, engaging in strategic, cross-sector collaboration is challenging. This brief draws on the experiences of five committed collective impact communities participating in the Ford Foundation’s Corridors to College Success initiative to expose some of the practical challenges of translating the theory of collective impact into action.”

McAfee, M., & Torre, M. (2015). The Promise Neighborhoods movement: Creating communities of opportunity from cradle to career. Voices in Urban Education, 40, 36–44. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In this article, Michael McAfee and Mauricio Torre reflect on the successes and challenges of the Promise Neighborhoods movement as it works toward education equity, and on what it takes to effect large-scale, sustainable change for low-income communities and communities of color. Together they discuss the Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood project and illustrate how setting clear goals for collective impact and making sure local efforts get needed support can result in sustainable systemic change.”

O’Donnell, J., & Kirkner, S. L. (2014). The impact of a collaborative family involvement program on Latino families and children’s educational performance. School Community Journal, 24(1), 211–234. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Latino families highly value education and are committed to their children’s educational success; however, Latino students often experience educational challenges. Well-designed family involvement programs can encourage Latino families, especially new immigrants or monolingual Spanish-speakers, to increase their involvement resulting in positive outcomes for children, families, and schools. This two-year study examined the impact of the YMCA Family Involvement Project on levels of family involvement and children’s educational performance using a sample of 144 low-income, urban, predominantly monolingual Spanish-speaking, Latino caregivers of 208 elementary-age children. Family workshops developed based on community input focused on in-home education strategies, parenting education, family literacy, and community leadership and advocacy. Teacher training on family involvement and school socials were also provided. Significant improvements were found in frequency of family-teacher contact, family involvement at school, and quality of the family-teacher relationship after program participation. Hierarchical regression analyses found higher levels of family participation predicted significantly better student social skills and work habits grades after one year of participation when controlling for baseline scores. At the end of two years, level of participation significantly predicted student effort, social skills and work habit grades, and standardized English Language Arts test scores and was somewhat predictive of achievement grades. Implications for practice are discussed.”

Potochnik, T., Romans, A. N., & Thompson, J. (2016). We made a promise: School-community collaboration, leadership, and transformation at Promesa Boyle Heights. Providence, RI: Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Promesa Boyle Heights, a neighborhood-level collaborative in Los Angeles, works to deliberately develop relationships, coordination, and alignment across multiple partners to benefit young people and families—with positive, measurable results. One unique aspect of Promesa is the substantive engagement of parents, youth, and residents as key stakeholders, decision-makers, and owners of the work. This engagement is too often missing in collaborative education and collective impact efforts, but lays crucial groundwork for ongoing support, sustainability, and success. This study by Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (AISR), with support from the Ford Foundation, was conducted with the hope that an exploration of the processes, structures, and belief systems of Promesa Boyle Heights, as well as the lessons learned by the collaborative, would be of value to those working to foster meaningful collaboration across the educational ecosystem.”

Poulos, J., d’Entremont, C., & Culbertson, N. (2015). Case study: Youth Transitions Task Force—a ten-year retrospective. Boston, MA: Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In 2004, Boston Public Schools reported that more than 8% of its students dropped out of school that year. The city faced a crisis. Thousands of students were failing to earn a high-school diploma, a necessary credential for entrance into postsecondary education and/or the twenty-first century workforce. Factors driving students’ decisions to leave school were closely intertwined with the more pervasive problems of poverty in urban neighborhoods. The challenge seemed overwhelming. Yet, it was at this moment that the work of the Youth Transitions Task Force was beginning to coalesce, emerging as a source for advocacy and action through the district. YTTF was launched as a cross-sector coalition—composed of school leaders, community-based organizations, and local foundations—to advance innovations in education policy and practice and support greater numbers of Boston youth in completing a high school diploma. They mobilized constituents on issues affecting disconnected and at-risk youth and influenced decision-making at the state and local level. Looking back over a decade of work, one data point stands out: in 2014, Boston’s dropout rate was 3.8%. Using a collective impact framework to examine how shared ownership of complex social issues can lead to large-scale change, this case study from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy documents the work of YTTF in building a city-wide, cross-sector coalition to support dropout prevention and recovery in Boston. To do so, the Rennie Center completed interviews with more than a dozen YTTF members and stakeholders. The resulting case study, titled ‘Youth Transitions Task Force: A Ten-Year Retrospective,’ highlights YTTF’s key accomplishments and the challenges that lie ahead.”

Spark Policy Institute & ORS Impact. (2018). When collective impact has an impact: A cross-site study of 25 collective impact initiatives. Denver, CO, & Seattle, WA: Authors. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “ORS Impact and Spark Policy Institute completed a rigorous study to understand when and how collective impact contributes to systems and population change. Looking across 25 initiatives working on different focus areas, the study looks at the contribution and outcomes of collective impact, the design and implementation of the collective impact approach, with a specific deep-dive into equity. The study also lifts up implications from the study as well as considerations for different audiences.”

Thompson, R., & Jocius, R. (2017). Collective impact: What does it mean for educational leaders? AASA Journal of Scholarship & Practice, 14(2), 4–14. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Due to local, state, and national accountability measures, school reform efforts have become critical of many legislative agendas. Local community members are getting off the sidelines and becoming part of the game to support local school districts to become part of the solution. Across the United States, Collective Impact models, which propose bringing stakeholders together in pursuit of a common goal, have rapidly gained momentum across the United States as a major element in school reform efforts. This commentary explores how the concept of Collective Impact is leading to increased student outcomes and making a cultural change on local communities.”

Treskon, L. (2016). What works for disconnected young people: A scan of the evidence (MDRC Working Paper). New York, NY: MDRC. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this paper was to conduct a scan of the current state of the evidence regarding what works in helping disconnected young people, defined as the population of young people ages 16 to 24 who are not connected to work or school. The following four main research questions were investigated: (1) What local, state, and federal policies have an impact on disconnected young people? What policies are helping improve services for this population? What policies are barriers to creating effective programs?; (2) What programs have been shown to be effective in serving disconnected young people? What evaluations in process have the potential to contribute to the evidence base?; (3) What is known about the effectiveness of system-level approaches, also called “collective impact approaches?”; and (4) Where are there gaps in services or knowledge? What programs or practices should be targeted for further research or expansion? MDRC conducted a literature review of relevant policies and programs. The literature reviewed included writing on impact, quasi-experimental, and implementation studies. MDRC also conducted reviews of numerous websites to learn about current policy trends and evaluations in process. To supplement what was learned from written materials, MDRC interviewed a number of practitioners in the field, including representatives from foundations, coalitions, and research organizations. The main findings included: (1) Policies affecting disconnected young people span a range of systems, including public schools; adult basic and secondary education; and the juvenile justice, foster care, and mental health systems. As a result, services, funding, and research are often uncoordinated and fragmented, though collective impact or system-level approaches are attempting to combat these challenges; (2) Though program impacts may be modest or short-lived, successful programs share some common features. These include: opportunities for paid work and the use of financial incentives; strong links among education, training, and the job market; the use of youth development approaches; comprehensive support services; and support after programs end; (3) Programs share some common implementation challenges, including: outreach and enrollment practices that may limit the populations they serve; difficulties keeping young people engaged in a program long enough to benefit from it; staff turnover; and difficulties addressing young people’s barriers to participation, particularly their lack of transportation and child care; (4) The field’s understanding of what works in serving disconnected young people could advance significantly in the coming years, as more than a dozen evaluations of programs are currently under way, including evaluations of collective impact approaches; and (5) There are gaps in the existing services available: There are not enough programs for young people who are not motivated to reconnect to education or the job market on their own, nor for young people who have low basic skills, especially those who have aged out of the public school system. The areas where there are gaps in services also tend to be areas where there is little evidence regarding what works.”

Wells, R., Gifford, E., Bai, Y., & Corra, A. (2015). A network perspective on dropout prevention in two cities. Educational Administration Quarterly, 51(1), 27–57. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Purpose: This exploratory case study examines how school systems and other local organizations have been working within two major U.S. cities to improve high school graduation rates. Systematically assessing active interorganizational dropout prevention networks may reveal characteristics affecting communities’ capacity to support school completion. Research Method: This study included the local affiliates within two U.S. cities of national partners in a dropout prevention initiative. A survey and follow-up interview probed for each organization’s cooperation with the other local organizations. Social network analyses revealed how school superintendents’ offices and other local agencies cooperated, as well as which organizations were most central within each city’s dropout prevention network. Findings: School systems in both cities cooperated with the YMCA, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, the mayor’s office, United Way, and Chamber of Commerce. Among the most central organizations in broader dropout prevention-related networks were the YMCA, Communities in Schools, mayor’s office, and the United Way. Implications for Research and Practice: An organizational network perspective can help school systems identify strategic opportunities to build local capacity for supporting youth. Working with key brokers may then offer a feasible way for schools to leverage local resources.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Additional Organizations to Consult

Collective Impact Forum –

From the website: “The Collective Impact Forum exists to support the efforts of those who are practicing collective impact in the field. While the rewards of collective impact can be great, the work is often demanding. Those who practice it must keep themselves and their teams motivated and moving forward.

The Collective Impact Forum is the place to find the tools and training that can help achieve success. It’s an expanding network of like-minded individuals coming together from across sectors to share useful experience and knowledge and thereby accelerating the effectiveness, and further adoption, of the collective impact approach as a whole.”

Promise Neighborhoods Research Consortium –

From the website: “The Consortium is building a network of neighborhood and community leaders and behavioral scientists who can work together to improve wellbeing in high-poverty neighborhoods. It will identify evidence-based prevention and treatment interventions (strategies, practices, programs, and policies) that communities can adopt and implement. It will also define and help communities implement measures of wellbeing and of risk and protective factors fundamental to knowing whether prevention and treatment interventions are achieving their intended benefits.

The PNRC is developing community-based research initiatives on the impact of evidence-based policies, programs, and practices when implemented in high-poverty communities. At the same time, it will develop the capacity of early-career and local community prevention scientists to conduct research and support evidence-based practices.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Collective impact

  • Corridors of college success

  • Promise Neighborhoods

  • YMCA

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Region) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.