For a collective impact initiative starting out, what steps do they take to get traction on a complex ‘messy’ problem? Darwin based Sanderson Alliance describe how they started off, what they learnt and what lies ahead.
When Sanderson Alliance was formed, the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data made a case for urgent action to improve outcomes for kids in their community.
In the words of Backbone Leader Karen Cieri, “the stats really shook us up.”
But it was far from clear how the Alliance should respond to early childhood development vulnerability. What were the underlying causes and influences? What was most important to the community? And what might a credible response look like?
Sanderson Alliance is a whole-of-community effort focussed on creating the best life opportunities for more than 4,000 children and young people living in their community. It uses a place-based collective impact approach to address childhood vulnerability.
This is their story snapshot:
Where we started
We knew we needed to take action (the stats told us so), but we didn’t know where to start. We had limited ABS data to help with our planning due to our small population.
So we held a data party and people from 25 organisations brought information to share across the domains of ARACY’s The Nest: loved and safe, healthy, learning, material basics, participating, systems.
We then launched a 100-day challenge – to do, learn, reflect and discover what we really needed to focus on through action learning.
We found out that people cared about babies missing out on health checks, kids not finishing school and domestic violence. This differed to our school-centric and school-readiness starting point.
We also knew that we’d done a lot of guessing about community priorities and we needed to hear the community’s voice and build relationships and trust with the community. So, we held community conversations, gatherings and heard lots of stories.
We realised that if you start with trust and relationships, then the rest will follow. It became apparent how important it was to be positive, compassionate and understanding and to not always start with the negative stories.
And we found out that we needed to adapt the plan again – because what people really wanted was to feel safe and connected to their community.
Where are we now?
We are now organising into a series of action teams, guided by community priorities. They include:
1) Trauma Responsive and Harmonious Community
2) Integrated Wellbeing Services for students and their families
3) Engaging Tots to Teens
4) Early Years: Pre-Birth to 8 Years Integrated Services
5) Seamless Transitions to and through school
Opportunity Child is supporting us to help develop an action plan for our early years team, using the National Measurement Framework. We are bringing together all the people at a workshop who can help us with this work to build a shared picture of what is happening for young children in the Sanderson area and what this means for our work.
At the workshop, we will share what we’ve learned from the community conversations and our collaborations so far. We will explore the data and build a common understanding of our priorities, outcomes and next steps. Watch out for our next blog on where we land.
4 key lessons
- We’d done a lot of guessing and needed to hear from the community about what was most important to them (importance of community engagement)
- The community aspirations were different to what we were funded for, but those aspirations helpfully shape how we can go about doing the work.
- Learning by doing can help to get clear on what’s needed and shape ways of working, but it’s important to come back to the strategic plan and take stock of where you can make the biggest impact.
- Funders need to be flexible if they really want to shift outcomes for kids and communities.
To view the story in pictures, click on this Graphic recording by Jessamy Gee.
About the author
Karen Cieri is Backbone Leader at Sanderson Alliance.
We will be sharing more stories like this one through our interactive Pathway to Scale, Opportunity Child’s framework for how leaders collaborate to plan, monitor progress, evaluate outcomes, learn, adapt and refine, and communicate towards improved outcomes for vulnerable children.