Collective Impact: Why Shared Case Management?

Imagine within your organization, if there were significant communication barriers between your departments:

  • Executives could not see the data recorded by your finance department.
  • Marketing and community engagement did not have access to the research that went into each of your strategic initiatives.
  • Grant writers were not fully aware of the opportunities available to your organization.


Social service agencies in a community should think about themselves as departments within a business. They are all working on the same product – the community. Their ‘output’ is not a tangible product, but rather the individuals they are working to serve. The collective goal of the various agencies is to change lives and create positive social change for the communities in which they serve.

In the manufacturing process, a part goes through machining, sandblasting, painting and many other steps and stages before being finalized. Similarly, for an individual in need, social service agencies act as steps in the process of becoming self-sufficient. If we think this way, in terms of departments within a business, it causes agencies within a community to prioritize systems change differently.

Does each department in a business run its own software? Moreover if so, how would that work? Businesses leverage Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERP’s) with integrated databases and interfaces that allow each department to function as one entity to improve customer service, produce better quality goods/services and maximize returns. This should be the same for social service agencies within a community. The agencies together should also be functioning as one entity – a community – to improve lives, produce positive social change and maximize agency efficiencies.

What if instead of an Enterprise system, businesses only set up reporting and evaluation systems that pulled data from disparate departments, or worse, required manual data entry by each department monthly in order to report about organizational progress? Departments would be operating in data-gather mode only, resulting in a lack in reporting and evidence-based results for stakeholders.

This scenario – or silo mentality – though uncommon in business, is precisely what social service agencies within our communities are doing today. We hear this all over the country. Shared Case Management – and more importantly, shared doing – breaks down those silos and overhauls how we work together.

To achieve impactful results, agencies must forge multi-sector community collaborations with open, inter-agency, client focused communications that result in a shared responsibility for community improvement. Shared Doing, together with a Shared Vision, Shared Knowledge, and Shared Measurement = Collective Impact.

This approach creates a holistic support network for individuals in need, by focusing all human service providers on a shared, participant-centered, goal-oriented achievement plan. Working together, service agencies can leverage their unique competencies and skill sets to realize greater efficiencies than they could by working alone.

Agencies can do more; can have greater impact. More families and individuals can be served. Communities can experience positive social change.

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Nellie Miller, MBA

Nellie Miller, MBA

Always seeing the glass as half full, Nellie’s smile and positive attitude are infectious. No one can disagree with you in a nicer way than Nellie and because she’s so good at it, people adopt her opinion and they don’t even know it. A true Augie, with her bachelor’s from Augustana College and her MBA from Rockford University, she is always on the hunt for the next cool marketing challenge. If you asked her, “What do you think about marketing ice in the North Pole?,” you’d get, “I don’t know, I think there’s real possibility there.” After decades in marketing, there are few who pass her experience and breadth of knowledge.

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