Category Archives: Collective Impact

Communicate, Collaborate and Innovate to Reduce Infant Mortality

Peter Gloor, PhD
Peter A. Gloor, PhD

Compared to other Western countries, infant mortality in the US is shockingly high.
High infant mortality is a social problem that can only be solved through massive collaboration and out-of-the-box innovation.

To tackle this issue I propose to tap into the “creativity of the swarm,” using collaborative innovation to help parents and caregivers take the best possible care of their children even before they are born and increase the quality of care in the first years of an infant’s life.

A good starting place, I believe, is to connect parents and healthcare providers in what I call Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs). These are dynamic teams in which diverse stakeholders with a shared vision collaborate to achieve a common goal. COINs form from the interaction of like-minded, self-motivated individuals who enable innovative ideas to be pushed forward. The participants join because they are committed to the common vision and want to be part of the innovation that “will change the world.”

How many people could be motivated by the goal of reducing infant mortality?

Through COINs, we can collectively address key topics such as breastfeeding, screening for developmental delays, and recognizing maternal depression. We can increase the quality of care for infants by creating peer learning and innovation groups of parents, where knowledgeable parents help others learn to take better care of their babies. Weaving a network of social support around parents in need helps them weather the storms of daily life. Just like in the beehive where bees take care of their young as a community, mothers and fathers in a collaborative innovation network can learn from and support each other.

One of the key factors for high-functioning COINs is communication. As we have found in our research, better communication leads to better collaboration, which in turn leads to more innovation. Ultimately, we want to increase the collective intelligence of these teams. In research at the Center for Collective Intelligence, my colleagues found that there are four key predictors that will increase collective intelligence of groups:

  1. The more team participants communicate with one another, the more collectively intelligent the team is.
  2. When participants communicate equally, instead of a few participants doing most of the talking, the collective intelligence of the team is higher.
  3. When everyone contributes equally to team success, a team is more collectively intelligent.
  4. The higher the emotional intelligence (measured through a test called “Reading the Mind in the Eyes”) of each team member is, the higher the collective intelligence of the team is.

It all starts with connecting parents and healthcare providers, encouraging them to better communicate such that they can innovate more. Talking more, talking more evenly, contributing ideas more evenly, and taking care of the emotional needs of each other will help to create better networks that will generate better ideas to reduce infant mortality.

Peter Gloor, PhD, is a research scientist at the Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and is the pioneer of the Collaborative Innovation Networks (COINs) concept upon which NICHQ’s Infant Mortality Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN) project is based. Mr. Gloor is serving as an expert advisor to NICHQ on this project.

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Let the wild rumpus start! Your ideas wanted!

mariannephd

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Those who teach the Model for Improvement often ask, “What will you do by next Tuesday?” It’s a quick way of jump starting the rapid testing that is one of the hallmarks of improvement science. At the end of this post, I offer a “next Tuesday” challenge.

Today, Peter Gloor, founder of the concept of Collaborative Innovation Networks, led a session with NICHQ on how to bring more innovation into our work. (His concept is one of the methods at the core of the Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to Reduce Infant Mortality, the expansion of which we are honored to be leading.) Peter shared with us his most simple roadmap for innovation, and it went like this:

  1. Collect crazy ideas.
  2. Select the craziest.
  3. Find people willing to work on the craziest ideas.

Peter is an innovative thinker, to say the least. Yet his approaches are also very grounded…

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Collective Impact: Coloring a New Vision of Collaboration

Marianne McPherson
Marianne McPherson

My colleague Karthi Streb* and I recently attended a Champions for Change event to learn more about how to achieve collective impact. Collective impact happens when a group of participants from different sectors commits to a common agenda for solving a complex social problem. The concept was first articulated in a 2011 Stanford Social Innovation Review article by John Kania and Mark Kramer.

During the trip, Karthi and I talked a lot about a lot of things (our work, our kids, the amazing Pacific salmon and Vancouver scenery…) as we grew more and more excited about the possibilities of more explicitly using a collective impact framing in our work at NICHQ. And as we talked about our work and our kids, I remembered the book The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. (I have a habit lately of connecting my work to children’s books.) As I reread this book, it hit me that Daywalt provides a beautiful illustration of the kind of partnership we hope to achieve in collective impact.

In the book, Duncan’s mission is just to color, but his crayons are sowing seeds of discontent. Purple is going to “completely lose it” if Duncan continues to color outside the lines. Peach feels naked without his paper wrapper and refuses to leave the crayon box. Blue feels overworked and has become short and stubby, no longer able to see. White reports that not being in the rainbow “leaves me feeling… well… empty.” Pink is tired of being typecast as “girly.” And Yellow and Orange have stopped speaking to each other because each one feels they alone are the color of the sun. They share this with Duncan in letters that they sign, “Your naked friend, Peach crayon…Your overworked friend, Blue crayon…”

Duncan is not deterred by the frustrations of his drawing partners. He listens, addresses some of his partners’ complaints (for example, using the overworked Blue crayon more sparingly) and finds a way to bring out the best in all of his crayons.

There is a lot to learn about partnering for collective impact from Duncan’s story. Paul Born, a leading collective impact and community-building practitioner at the Tamarack Institute, describes collective impact as how to “make the work of working together better and more effective.” Duncan and his crayon partners built a more effective working relationship and ultimately Duncan achieved the outcome he wanted—to just color.

Collective impact is in NICHQ’s DNA, although until recently we haven’t had the benefit of this language or framework. In our newest project, we are using collective impact concepts to engage federal, state, and local leaders, public and private agencies, professionals and communities to reduce infant mortality and improve birth outcomes. NICHQ is honored to have been selected to be what collective impact would refer to as the “backbone organization” in this important initiative to save lives with an exceptional group of partner organizations.

A backbone organization is the coordinating center for an initiative, but it is not the only driver of the initiative or the work. In fact, there’s a risk that the backbone organization “owns” the effort rather than the effort belonging to the whole partnership; so it’s important to find the right balance between leading and leading too far.

NICHQ’s mission is to improve children’s health. This mission is so big we couldn’t possibly achieve it alone. It is fundamentally about partnerships, about finding effective ways to collaborate and build on each other. It is a vision that builds on pillars of collective impact to generate collaboration for social change.

We hope to achieve the right balance with our partner organizations that share our mission and we welcome suggestions from our partners for how might continually improve our approach. We certainly do not want to argue like the Yellow and Orange crayons about who is the color of the sun. In our world, the sunshine comes from “collaboration” and “partnership” rather than “ownership.”

Let’s just color!

Your energized friend,
Marianne

* Karthi and I collaborated on writing this post and on the ideas behind it. More partnership in action!