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Femme 6 – Aiming for Collective Impact

By Mallory Perez – Health Policy & Management Graduate Student

Femme 6 is a student group of Health Policy & Management majors at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. For the Spring 2014 semester, this team of six young women is assisting Every Women Southeast as the coalition grows and expands its network of resources. Mallory Perez from Tampa, FL is a member of Femme 6.
Nowadays, the word “collaboration” gets thrown around a great deal, whether it is a new music record or a team at work focusing on an upcoming project. I recently read an article that made me think critically about why some collaborations work and why others fall flat. “Collective Impact” by Kania and Kramer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review mentions comprehensiveness and risk-taking as part of what makes collective impact successful. The evidence of the effectiveness of cross-sector partnerships is building…slowly. So, what makes engagement in collective impact so difficult? Don’t we all want positive social change?
The five conditions of collective success described in the article are as follows: common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support organizations. Establishing all of these elements across various organizations in multiple social sectors can magnify the impact of an initiative and generate large-scale change. Beyond the difficulties of obtaining funding, this type of work requires a change in mindset, one that fully promotes equity. I have learned that collective impact works best when each member has “skin in the game”. No one person pushes to be the sole champion of change. Rather, collective impact is more of a process, and less of who can claim the outcome. The opportunity to learn from the expertise and perspectives of others is invaluable. That opportunity is where we grow, where we bring about change.

Every Woman Southeast is working to apply the collective impact model to women’s health and preconception health. The health sector is rapidly evolving, and it is becoming increasingly clearer that “good health” extends far beyond medical care. Public health, entertainment, advertising, education, and politics are just some of the players that influence our choices, and subsequently our health. At present, Every Woman Southeast seeks to engage partners that will help impact policy decisions and the housing/transportation available to women. Both of these factors contribute to how much autonomy and control women have over their own health. As Every Woman Southeast continues to build more cross-sector relationships, more individuals will discover the ways in which they can participate in collective impact.

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