Just spent a stimulating three days in Canberra at the Collaborate for Impact conference.  It’s all about Collective Impact, and it was great to see how the model is evolving to be more structured and codified.

There are now 75+ collective impact initiatives around Australia – quite a feat eh? I am most impressed their focus on really investing in the early stages of collaborative venture and creating the common agenda and holding environment - then stepping this out right through the iterative phases to collective action and large scale impact.Collective action reminds me a lot of participatory action research (which I love) but it has some great new twists and turns that makes it more viable and focused on population level impact.

On the second day Liz Skelton and Grant Paulson took us through an extremely powerful session on the lost conversations – which is based on their experience of working across the cultural divide to get to shared understanding. I have never come across anything quite like it before. I bought several copies of the book.

Also went to a great session on systems thinking by Dr Deborah O’Connell from CSIRO. Love the good old feedback loops, I think there is a resurgence in systems thinking – and a very important place for it when thinking about systems change.

So what does this mean for us evaluators? A few things.

1)  There is new and exciting work now and into the future around developmental evaluation – the natural partner to collective impact. As these collaborations mature they will be needing more and more evaluative thinking, real time data and generally backing their work with good solid evaluation.

2) More work is needed to codify and work out how exactly we do developmental evaluation.

And I hate to say it – but in a way that is value for money. It can’t be just about documenting the process! We need to get in there with boots and all and get real time data on the table. Maybe I am speaking mostly for myself here, but my hunch is that evaluators are going to need to step up in order to meet this future challenge!

We are thinking hard and long about this, and invite you to our Developmental Evaluation Masterclass (Melbourne November 24) to think deeper about how we can do it better.