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Collective action is the action taken together by a group of people who share knowledge, resources, and effort to achieve a common purpose.

Collective Action

Collective action is an approach to systems change.  It is a network-based, relationship-focused approach for bringing together grantmakers, nonprofit service providers, public agencies, and the business community in the pursuit of a common purpose for improving people’s lives.  Collective action aims to improve lives by aligning resources and coordinating service delivery across a community.

Root Cause helps partners imagine, plan, and manage large-scale and long-term collective action initiatives.  We build cross-sector partnerships and function as a network manager or “backbone support,” facilitating relationships, fostering teamwork, and coordinating service delivery and performance measurement.

Our approach to collective action is grounded in the experiences of people in the community.  We work with partners to understand how people experience barriers to success, such as those connected to race, class, gender, and geography, and we center collective action strategies on eliminating barriers so that more people experience lifelong success.

Collective Action for Grantmakers

Root Cause helps grantmakers at every stage of the collective action process.  We work with you to envision, study, plan, implement, and evaluate initiatives that involve grantees and community partners.  We function as or support a backbone organization in order to provide ongoing strategic and operational support that ensures philanthropic investments translate into meaningful improvements in people’s lives.

Collective Action for Backbone Organizations

For intermediaries that function as a backbone organization for collective action initiatives in their community, Root Cause provides support in strategic planning, monitoring and implementation, and performance measurement.  We help build capacity for implementing collective action initiatives and put data to use for learning and improvement.

Collective Action for Nonprofit Direct Service Providers

We help nonprofit direct service providers build capacity to participate in collective action initiatives.  We work with organization and program leaders to assess readiness, allocate resources, and make the case to funders for supporting network-based approaches to improving people’s lives.

Project Goals

Collective Action projects aim to achieve the following goals:

Design for systems change.
Our team helps cross-sector partners design collective action strategies that aim to transform the broader systems and influence the broader conditions that shape people’s ability to succeed.
Advance equity in strategy, practice, and outcomes.
Equity is built into our approach to collective action. We help partners understand how factors such as race, class, and gender create barriers to people’s success, and use data to improve service delivery and reduce those barriers.
Strengthen cross-sector collaboration.
We help networks of nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and funders align resources and coordinate services. We help partners fill gaps in service delivery and reduce overlap and redundancy so that more people access and participate in a continuum of quality programs.
Share accountability.
Collective action is built on trust and shared accountability for outcomes. We help partners develop a strong sense of mutual respect and trust that then enables partners to identify common performance measures, share data, and practice collective performance measurement.
Strengthen capacity for community leadership.
Our team builds partners’ capacity to convene stakeholders, facilitate collaboration, and manage networks in order to translate ideas into strategy and action that addresses community needs.
Enable more people to achieve lifelong success.
Partners design and develop community-wide networks of support that enable people to successfully move from one stage of life to the next. Projects create and strengthen intentional linkages between resource and service providers so that more people and families thrive.

Coordinating services and reducing barriers to people’s success.

Project Activities

Root Cause helps partners design, build, and manage complex strategies that involve cross-sector stakeholders and aim to deliver coordinated services at scale across communities.  We help partners to:

Research community needs and the ecosystem of programs and resources that address those needs.

We help partners deeply understand the problem they are trying to solve in their community, including existing efforts that focus on addressing similar needs.  We also identify and assess stakeholders working to address the need to determine prospective partners for the initiative.

Identify and share a common sense of purpose for improving people's lives.

Collective action projects start with a common sense of purpose that is shared by all partners and focused on improving people’s lives in meaningful and measurable ways.  Root Cause helps clients and partners synchronize their efforts in ways that lead to real and sustained impact across a population.  

Map programs and systems and design mutually-reinforcing service delivery.

We help partners understand how people interact with complex systems of service providers.  We identify key collaborators that play critical roles in a community, and work with partners to engage them in designing and building a comprehensive network-based strategy that reaches and serves the target population.

Facilitate dialogue, strengthen relationships, and build consensus across a wide range of stakeholders.

We bring people and organizations together to create new connections, strengthen partnerships, and move bold ideas forward.  Our approach is inclusive and collaborative as we guide the leaders of organizations, programs, and communities in  executing a collective strategy for achieving a common purpose.

Design strategies to support equity and reduce structural barriers to people’s success.

We work to understand the conditions, institutions, and policies that affect people’s lives and how they facilitate or create barriers to their success.  We help clients design collective action initiatives to reduce those barriers so that marginalized populations gain greater access to critical resources and enable them to experience success.

Manage service coordination to expand opportunities for more people.

Through intentional and structured coordination, we create connections between services and resources within and across sectors.  We help partners design and build connections that support people’s transitions from one stage of life to the next (such as, from high school to college and into the workforce). 

Practice collective performance measurement.

We help partners develop and adopt shared performance metrics that are focused on research-based milestones of success.  Then, we help design, build, and use a common data system and develop measurement practices to report on and assess effectiveness across all participating programs and partners.

Document and share knowledge.

Root Cause helps partners produce original research, identify best practices, codify processes, and share success stories.  We also help partners connect with peer networks and support peer learning to encourage the sharing and adoption of best practices.

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