Good Day! I am Tania Rempert from PIE Org, a strategic partner of Become. We specialize in evaluation capacity building for non-profits that otherwise could not afford high quality rigorous evaluation services.
Lately, we have been lucky enough to work on some collective impact projects, to provide capacity building support to a whole cadre of organizations at once! One of these projects is called the Cicero Neighborhood Network. United Way of Metro Chicago is currently spearheading ten Neighborhood Networks with funding to connect partners, leverage their capabilities to help each other share knowledge and resources, and become stronger and more impactful. If you have been working on a collective impact project, you may be aware of the Five Key Elements identified by John Kania and Mark Kramer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011: a common agenda, common progress measures, mutually reinforcing activities, communication, and backbone organization.
We share many of the perspectives and strategies of Innes and Booher (2007); as much of our work requires consensus building.
We have identified an effective and efficient strategy to develop consensus on priorities, solutions, next steps, and preferred measurement systems across large numbers of people and groups (for the city of Cicero or across the state of Illinois) that involves using a questionnaire to determine what areas do not need consensus building, due to wide spread agreement:
- First, of course, conduct a needs assessment in the community.
- Present the findings via multiple creative mediums in all relevant languages to be responsive to the various information needs.
- Facilitate community forums with expert speakers, panels, and small group breakout sessions to educate all stakeholders on the meanings of all findings and recommendations from the needs assessment.
- Ask all stakeholders to go back to their community groups and organizations to come to consensus within those groups regarding recommendations and priorities.
- Administer a detailed electronic questionnaire to determine the level of consensus for each recommendation by determining the percentage of participants who think: (1) I agree with this statement and think it should be included as stated, (2) I am not sure if this is how I would word it, but I can agree with this statement being included, or (3) I do not agree with this statement being included in the plan submitted to United Way, and this is how I would improve it.
- Analyze the questionnaire results to identify which specific details already have consensus and identify areas of continued tension. This is the big time saver! You don’t need to continue talking about minutia of areas that already have consensus, group facilitation time can be focused on areas of continued tension.
- At the next large-group meeting, present the areas of consensus based on the questionnaire results, so the group feels that they have already made progress on some important topics and give them hope that they can come to consensus on the additional decisions that remain.
- Finally, develop consensus through the use of community forums with expert speakers, panels, and small group breakout sessions to educate all stakeholders on areas with continued tension using MIT and Harvard Short Guide to Consensus Building.
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