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Collective impact and public health: An old/new approach — Stories of two Canadian initiatives

Collective impact (CI) is a collaborative community development approach that “brings people together, in a structured way, to achieve social change.” Collective impact  is built on the premise that organizations can be more successful in achieving large-scale social change if they coordinate their efforts across sectors, rather than working in isolation on interventions with similar aims.

This blended case story describes two CI initiatives in which public health is significantly involved: London Ontario’s Child & Youth Network (with 170 member organizations) and The Child & Youth Health Network on Vancouver Island.  This document describes why and how the two networks came together, their current status and future goals. From these stories, the authors identify seven strategic lessons:

  1. Allow for a lot of time to build and change community/institutional relationships
  2. Align organizational staffing with new structures
  3. Work for worldview, policy and organizational alignment
  4. Find adequate funding, particular for the initial years
  5. Pay attention to continuous network communications and education
  6. Integrate evaluation with CI network development
  7. Involve people with lived experience

This document also summarizes the foundational and evolving CI framework, and offers advice on how to get started on a CI initiative.

Use this resource to: 

  • Review the evolving framework of the CI approach
  • Deepen your understanding of how the mandate of a Public Health unit can be served by involvement in a CI initiative
  • Guide your efforts to instigate or participate in a CI initiative


National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health. (2017). Collective impact and public health: An old/new approach - Stories of two Canadian initiatives. Antigonish, NS: National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, St. Francis Xavier University.

Related resources:


Tags: Assess and report, Community engagement, Early childhood development, Evaluation, Intersectoral action, Leadership & capacity building, Methods & tools, Partnership , Public health unit / health authority, National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health

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