Close Search
 
MEDIA, JOBS & RESOURCES for the COMMON GOOD
News  |  General

Let’s Remember that a Backbone has Multiple Parts


26 February 2014 at 8:37 am
Staff Reporter
The Head of Community Impact from United Way Australia, Jenny Riley is presenting on mobilisation at this week’s Collective Impact Conference. Here, Riley writes on an emerging ‘distributed backbone’ model.

Staff Reporter | 26 February 2014 at 8:37 am


0 Comments


 Print
Let’s Remember that a Backbone has Multiple Parts
26 February 2014 at 8:37 am

The Head of Community Impact from United Way Australia, Jenny Riley is presenting on mobilisation at this week’s Collective Impact Conference. Here, Riley writes on an emerging ‘distributed backbone’ model.

Did you know your backbone, also known as a vertebral column, is made up of usually 24 vertebrae? However when discussed in relation to Collective Impact ‘the backbone’ is often referred to as a singular piece. Over the past 18 months I have heard a number of themes emerge about ‘the backbone’:

  • Many believe they should be the backbone, resulting in a jostling in communities for the position of backbone.
  • The backbone, i.e. one entity, is responsible for the facilitation, data management, community outreach, (this has been supported by articles from FSG)
  • The backbone role is seen as being in a position of power and the leader.
  • The backbone costs $100,000s of dollars to support.

All of this is driven by the experience of collective impact in the US, where large private investments have been made in infrastructure, now known as the backbone. Interestingly this model has not gone off to the same extent in the UK and it is emerging slightly differently here in Australia.

It could be that we sit somewhere in the middle of the Big Society model of the US and the Big Government social model in the UK and thus our expression of collective impact will be different to our overseas friends. It makes sense that a localised version informed and shaped by the philanthropic, government and business relationships with the social sector here in Australia will emerge.

At United Way Australia, we have been part of a number of cross-sector collaborations in homelessness, health, education and the school-to-work transition space. In our experience, cross-sector collaborations looking for collective impacts are emerging with distributed backbones, that is, different players are playing different roles within the backbone. In one collaboration the role of secretariat, facilitator, data manager and community engagement were all provided by different organisations, there was no one organisation with the mandate of the backbone.

In fact, in another collaboration where this was not deliberately the case and United Way played ‘the backbone’, a dependency was developed on the role of UW doing it all, making the collaboration unsustainable.

The notion of a singular backbone is not flexible enough for the Australian context. The funding required for a single entity to be a dedicated backbone is not readily available and is not sustainable in the long term. 

Also, there is something about a singular entity playing that backbone role as it is currently perceived; generally we shy away from being leaders and being led, especially in the Not for Profit sector where perceived tall poppies are shot down and the question of mandate is often raised.

Instead, we believe, the Australian model of collective impact is emerging differently where the backbone is made of many parts, perhaps not 24 parts, but multiple parts who will share the weight and provide a flexible and sustainable base for impact.

About the author: Jenny Riley is a social sector professional with 15 years experience across local, national and international contexts. She has worked for government, local community organisations and global Not for Profits including United Way, Oxfam Australia, Plan International and World Vision.

Read more about community development here

 

Staff Reporter  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews


PB Careers
Get your biweekly dose of news, opinion and analysis to keep you up to date with what’s happening and why it matters for you, sent every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers? Get in touch at news@probonoaustralia.com.au or download our contributor guidelines.

Get more stories like this

FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Meet Pro Bono News’ first editorial advisory board

Wendy Williams

Thursday, 16th April 2020 at 8:02 am

Filling the Service Gaps That People Keep Falling Through

Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine

Tuesday, 5th September 2017 at 8:41 am

Survey Reveals Australian Attitudes to Torture in Conflict

Lina Caneva

Tuesday, 6th December 2016 at 3:05 pm

Indigenous Advocate Named 2016 Telstra Business Woman of the Year

Lina Caneva

Tuesday, 22nd November 2016 at 12:30 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook
×

We need your help.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Pro Bono Australia has seen a devastating fall in advertising and less people posting on our job board, which is how we fund our free news service. You can show us that you value the work we do by making a contribution.

 Make a contribution 

You have Successfully Subscribed!