To create Inclusive Societies for all and ensure equity for the long-term, failing established systems need to radically change and power relations need to be shifted. But no one can do this on their own, and too many organizations are working in isolation from one another. Breaking these silos is key to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The 17 quite different goals are so interconnected, and systems change is too complex for any actor to tackle alone – it requires broad cross-sector collaborations. Yet, this is easier said than done because it requires a complete reimagining of how different actors collaborate. We must learn to shift our thinking from silos to eco-systems.
Central to H&M Foundation’s strategy is to facilitate cross-sectoral partnerships to build holistic programs that look at the broader needs of the primary actors, the target group in question. By using the Collective Impact (CI) method, we move away from being a traditional donor and become a facilitator catalysing change and creating a platform for collaboration and partnerships.
The CI method is a highly structured collaborative model where a diverse group of actors come together in partnerships to solve complex social challenges. It can be defined as a highly structured network of community members, organizations, and institutions that advance equity by learning together, aligning, and integrating their actions to achieve population and systems-level change.
All actors partnering up in a Collective
Impact project must agree to:
- Define a common agenda – collectively define the problem and create a shared vision to solve it.
- Establish shared measurement – track progress in the same way allowing for continuous improvement.
- Foster mutually reinforcing activities – coordinating collective efforts to maximize the end result.
- Encourage continuous communication – to ensure everyone in the network stays informed.
- Have a strong backbone – a team dedicated to orchestrating the work of the group.
Since 2020, the Collective Impact method – with priority placed on equity – is being piloted in two programs in India and Bangladesh. With this method the H&M Foundation will use an eco-system thinking and design process to reshape how development work is done. This is a much-needed step towards moving away from being a traditional donor funding projects that many times operate in silos, to being a facilitator – a catalyst that disrupts the global development sector and creates a platform for true collaboration and co-creation to take place between local expert organizations. This role is new for the H&M Foundation, shifting agency to local expert organizations, empowering them to create local solutions while still being an engaged partner.
As a donor, we can move the needle and enable holistic systems change – if we ask for it. We must have the patience to stay with an initiative for years, accepting that social change can come from the gradual improvement of an entire system over time. We must dare to invest in complex projects and take on a more long-term perspective, be unconventional and innovative.