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The Backbone Organisation

A defining feature of collective impact approach is the role of a backbone organisation – a separate organisation dedicated to coordinating the various dimensions and collaborators involved in the initiative.

Supporting a backbone infrastructure is essential to ensuring the collective impact effort maintains momentum and facilitates impact.


The Six Main Functions of a backbone organisation

The backbone organization serves six main functions:


All of these activities should be common across all backbone organization, however the way in which each organisation undertakes these things is dependent on a number of factors.


The role of leadership in a backbone organisation

Effective leadership plays an important role in the success of a backbone organization in driving a collective impact initiative through implementation as well as other context-specific activities.  Adaptive leadership is at the heart of the collective impact model. Kania and Kramer (2011) argue that adaptive leadership skills are the most suitable for backbone organizations driving a collective impact initiative.

These include the capacity to raise awareness about the issue at hand, and the importance of taking action quickly, the ability to highlight both challenges and opportunities in any situation, and the capacity to act as a negotiator and intermediary between the various organizations that are part of the initiative, as well as external stakeholders.  

“Backbones must balance the tension between coordinating and maintaining accountability, 
while staying behind the scenes to establish collective ownership”