The problems we face are not simple, predictable, or linear. They do not fit neatly into electoral cycles or grant timelines. They are complex and involve many fluctuating actors, conditions, and norms. Yet many people in the social and public sectors feel constrained by a traditional approach to solve these problems through a single strong program, a single funding stream, or a single organization. They often understand the implications of complexity but feel bound by rules that oversimplify the range of possible responses.
In a time of scarce resources and intractable problems, however, no one in the social sector, including policymakers, can afford to believe in singular solutions. Instead, we must all embrace the notion that addressing complex problems requires a collective impact approach that involves many actors from different sectors committing to a common agenda to solve a specific problem at scale. Many communities have adopted this approach, outlined in Table 1, and achieved success in tackling such complex challenges. If implemented more fully, the collective impact approach could increase the effective use of public resources