A look at globalization and social impact networks

Originally published in the Kenosha News

By Community Development Educator, Amy Greil

Since the mid-20th century, globalization has increased the pace of information technology and has changed the way people solve problems.

Globalization disperses expertise, “flattens” access to low-cost/free information and “loosens/strengthens” degrees of boundedness of organizational structures. It has been an exciting period of new tools allowing for more dynamic communication, open information transfer and freedom to self-organize.

And at the same time, globalization has left more traditional forms of organizing appear overly rigid, slow-to-act, and ill-suited for the dynamism of the day.

With new challenges, so come new opportunities. For those like myself working in community economic development, sustainability planning and organizational development, an emerging innovation in social organizing demands attention.

Isolated impact versus collective impact

This innovation is often referred to as collective impact, as contrasted to working in silos to affect isolated impact.

In brief, collective impact systematically pools resources, aligns work around common measures and indicators, and applies rigorous data collection/analysis to achieve intended change.

Collective impact is grounded in the notion that there is scant evidence isolated initiatives are the best way to solve many social problems in today’s complex and interdependent world, for no single organization is responsible for any major social problem, nor can any single organization cure it.

Social-impact networks on the rise

While collective impact is an effective approach to addressing complex 21st century inter-related social issues, leaders need to pay special consideration to a vehicle to achieve collective impact — that is, the social-impact network.

Nationally, research demonstrates that high-functioning social impact networks are on the rise and are effective responses to complex dilemmas.

What distinguishes social impact networks from other forms of organizing units is that their essence and function relies upon dynamically generative, flexible systems of trust-based, “learner-centric” relationships that evolve over time to confront complex issues of community concern.

Local application

Do social-impact networks exist locally? Yes, indeed!

Building Our Future is a mature example of a cross-sector approach confronting the complex issue of increasing educational attainment for all students.

There are other, emergent social-impact networks being nurtured in equitable food systems and neighborhood revitalization that are suited to complex issues with complex networked solutions as well here in Kenosha County.

I’m presenting next week in Detroit at an international conference about the local emergence of networked approaches, and invite those interested can view my presentation slides at https://kenosha.uwex.edu/files/2018/07/Column-Pres-1.pdf.