Coinciding with a growing interest in collective impact efforts, an increasing number of foundations, policymakers, and practitioners are recommending that multi-sector partnerships make use of a backbone. A backbone is an entity that functions independently as a centralized management team for partnership efforts. While the idea of using a backbone has gained currency, little attention has been paid to how to establish a backbone. Instead, much of the prevailing discussion has focused on what a backbone should do after it has been formed.
Research on the Ford Corridors of College Success initiative reveals that communities that want to engage in the collective impact approach need more help in the process of creating a backbone. This brief describes the challenges that early-stage collective impact communities face as they work to identify potential backbone organizations and establish a backbone structure.