Like it or not, we’re living out that old Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.” From significant shifts in our economy to new frontiers in technology to social and political upheaval in our communities, we are experiencing a time of unprecedented change and challenge. The world around us grows in complexity with each passing minute, and there has never been a greater opportunity to think creatively and collaboratively about how we move forward together to strengthen our people, our families, and our communities.

In the past, we’ve primarily looked to the government, nonprofits, and philanthropy to meet individual and community need. But many of the systems and institutions we have relied upon in the past are showing signs of wear and tear – the needs are too great to rely primarily on the ways we’ve done things before.

The movement toward positive change through collective impact has presented a challenge to all of us:

  • Put aside your usual ways of doing business,
  • Move beyond focusing primarily on guarding and growing your own turf, and
  • Embrace true collaboration and innovation at a systems and community level instead.

First and foremost, this means redefining the partners who need to be at the table for meaningful, sustainable change to take place. Beyond government, nonprofits and philanthropies, beyond the sectors we have traditionally looked to for support (like the corporate sector, media and academia) we must also include creative thinkers, educators and innovators like artists, entrepreneurs, and activists.

Together, our invitation is to build and tend to a social impact sector that transcends silos and turf battles, that avoids an “us” and “them” approach, and instead builds a common agenda focused on healthier, more well-balanced communities. It takes an integrative approach to examining problems with a cross-sector lens, to understand the risks and benefits inherent in social change, to generate new systems-wide solutions that build upon the lessons of the past, and marshals the skills and resources needed to change the way we work together as a community. No one individual sector, or even the traditional social sector of government, nonprofits and funders, can do it all – it takes all of us to assure these “interesting times” give rise to the kind of positive change that we can truly celebrate.