Collective impact and engagement with local communities

I've been asked to chair a session at a forthcoming day workshop on encouraging greater involvement of community-led heritage initiatives in the work of the professional heritage sector. I'm posting this as a way of 'working out loud'. I'm no expert in these areas, and I'd welcome comments.

The starting point is a report, Assessing the Value of Community-Generated Historic Environment Research, commissioned by Historic England, and delivered by heritage staff at Worcestershire County Council in 2016. This established the scope and value of community-led research. The workshop is a follow up, organised by colleagues Daniel Miles and Jane Golding.

I'll take as my starting point two concepts that are dear to my heart as a knowledge manager - Collective Impact and Engagement. Again, my knowledge of these areas is more theoretical than experience based, so I'd love to hear from you if you have worked in either of these areas.

Collective Impact is a framework developed in the US to tackle complex problems that require multiple organisations to work together. See . It sets out five key elements that are likely to make for a more effective collaboration.

  • A common agenda
  • Shared measurement of progress
  • Mutually reinforcing actions
  • Continuous communication
  • A backbone organisation


Engagement pyramid – this is a widely used model, but occurs in a particularly relevant way in this book on Google scholar


The model presents engagement as a series of steps leading whoever it is you want to engage higher (or deeper depending on your persepctive) into engagement with an initiative, so that they start by becoming aware of it, and end owning and leading it.


I’m particularly struck today by the use of a pyramid diagram to present both approaches, which I hadn’t noticed before.  I’ll see if I can can match those pyramids up. Maybe we can see them as parallel processes, so that what we want to ultimately achieve is fully engaged communities who own and lead on the heritage of their areas (geographical or subject area) with backbone support from the profession, along with a shared agenda for action, ways to measure success and co-ordinated activities.


Lots to think about, and I'll update via this blog before the presentation next month.

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