The Youth Plan as Collective Impact

‘Collective impact’ is a useful framework to help you consider the key facets of building a movement to end youth homelessness. However, building a youth plan is only one step in a collective impact initiative; collective impact is a much more complex, long-term cross-sectoral mobilization effort to bring about social change. The goal of collective impact in this instance is to end youth homelessness. A youth plan can certainly contribute to such an effort, but it will not in and of itself bring about the desired social change.

Collective impact provides the key conditions for success you want to consider in the plan development process. In many ways, the ultimate success of a planning effort is not the plan itself, but the collective stakeholders’ capacity to deliver on its articulated common goals, towards ending youth homelessness. This is an important consideration for communities embarking on this journey: your guidepost is NOT the plan itself, it is your ability to leverage the plan development –  educating others and consolidating multiple policy levers and implementation processes to make a real impact on youth homelessness. If a plan is a hindrance to this ultimate objective, then it may not be the right means of engendering the desired change in your community.

Developing a ‘theory of change’ is useful at this stage and can be revisited throughout your planning process, to clarify the impact sought and how it will be achieved. The McConnell Foundation’s Innoweave provides an excellent exercise to develop your theory of change. Work through the short exercise with the planning group and consider introducing it as part of your consultation process. 

Table 2: Innoweave Theory of Change Exercise

1. What problem are you trying to solve, or change do you aspire to see?

Identify the change you hope to see as a result of your activities

2. Who are your target beneficiaries?

Be specific (e.g. demographics, key stakeholders, geography)

3.What are the benefits you wish to create for them?

Identify the impact you would like to have on your beneficiaries.

4. What changes are needed, or barriers that must be overcome, to achieve your intended impact?

Changes should be empirically plausible and evidence-based

5. Activity A

What you will do to make the change

6. Outcome A

Desired outcome as a result of activity, to which you hold yourself accountable

7. Evidence A

Evidence for the desired outcome


Concise statement of your theory of change

5. Activity B 6. Outcome B 7. Evidence B.
5. Activity C 6. Outcome C 7. Evidence C
Assumptions Assumptions Assumptions Assumptions Resources required for these activities Context

External factors that impact your Theory of Change


What is Collective Impact?

As described by FSG, collective impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem.

In order to create lasting solutions to social problems on a large scale, organizations – including those in government, civil society and the business sector – need to coordinate their efforts and work together around a clearly defined goal.

Collective impact is a significant shift from the social sector’s current paradigm of ‘isolated impact,’ because the underlying premise of collective impact is that no single organization can create large-scale, lasting social change alone. There is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to systemic social problems and these problems cannot be solved by simply scaling or replicating one organization or program. Strong organizations are necessary but not sufficient for large-scale social change.

Not all social problems are suited for collective impact solutions. Collective impact is best employed for problems that are complex and systemic rather than technical
in nature. Collective impact initiatives are currently being employed to address a wide variety of issues around the world, including education, healthcare, homelessness, the environment and community development. Many of these initiatives are already showing concrete results, reinforcing the promise of collective impact in solving complex social problems.