Group Action Planning for collective impact

Planning and implementing agile and rapid change using devolved initiatives in organizations, sectors and communities for collective impact

In many instances these days, central agencies are wanting to run devolved initiatives. These consist of a central agency working with a number of people who are implementing similar activities within different organizations or sites. 

In the past, when running such initiatives, central agencies have ended up having multiple one-on-one discussions with those implementing the initiative in different organizations or different sites.

This traditional approach is inefficient and time consuming. 

In contrast, Duignan’s Group Action Planning DGAP approach gets you to bring together the central agency and those who are implementing the initiative. They then work together on the issue that they are addressing in order to enhance their collective impact. 

Group Action Planning is a type of collective impact approach. Collective impact as often implemented consists of a group of stakeholders and agencies getting together to work on an issue. Group Action Planning is the same type of process but it has been specifically designed and used in situations where one central agency is attempting to get people within different organizations or sites to undertake similar activity. 

The advantages of Duignan’s Group Action Planning are:

  • It uses the energy of committed enthusiasts who just want to get things done and it builds of peer-to-peer interaction.
  • Independent facilitation shifts the change dynamic. It’s much better than a situation where a central agency is trying to get individual organizations or sites to change through one-on-one interactions with each of them individually.
  • If focuses on immediate action in multiple organizations or sites and then adjusts strategy.
  • It’s agile in the face of a rapidly changing environments.
  • It reduces paper-work, because it uses what people report back in meetings to monitor and evaluate progress. If wished, the approach can also be used as a formative evaluation technique - in the Collaborative Ongoing Formative Evaluation COFE approach.  
  • It encourages evidence-based practice through input and peer cross-organisation and cross-site critique.
  • It means best-practice is shared amongst people working in different organizations and at different sites.
  • It allows system-wide problems to be quickly identified by the group and collective representations made to external stakeholders to get such problems fixed quickly.  

Duignan’s Group Action Planning tightly embeds planning within action. It’s agile planning that gets people to role-up their sleeves and ‘just do it’ to better achieve collective impact. 

Here is how it’s run: 

Bring them together for an initial meeting. Tell them that they're going to be meeting every three (or six months) either virtually or physically until the issue is fixed (i.e. over several years).

Identify a small group of key dynamic people working at different sites or in different organizations.

Don't just bring in figure-head organizational leaders. The criteria is that group members should be motivated and impatient for change.

Have the meetings independently facilitated by a Group Action Planning facilitator - someone how knows how to run the process.

This changes the dynamic from a central agency 'telling' people what to do to a group working to enhance their collective impact in solving an issue.

Throughout the process, provide input about the best way of addressing the issue(s).

This input might provide evidence to inform evidence-based practice; information on legal requirements the group needs to take into account; or it might be best practice suggestions.

At the first Group Action Planning Meeting, identify the outcomes the group is trying to achieve and the steps required to achieve these. Prioritize where the group, and each member, will focus in the period until the next meeting.

Do this by group members assigning themselves to work on specific issue. These may be either in their own organization or site, or in conjunction with other group members on issues that require the group to work together.

At each meeting, provide time for group members to share the best-practice approaches they're using in their organizations or at their sites.

Encourage them to set up working groups to address issues that need collaborative work.

Identify any system-level issues they're facing in their organizations or at their sites that need to be addressed collectively.

Make representations from the Group Action Planning group to external stakeholders who can improve these system-level issues.

Start each Group Action Planning meeting by members reporting back on the progress they've made in their organization or at their site.

Keep a record of these reports as documentation of the progress that's being made as part of documenting, monitoring, evaluating and improving the Group Action Planning work.

Get Group Action Planning group members to work out how they're going to monitor and evaluate their progress.

Work out how to monitor and evaluate overall progress on the issue.

Encourage electronic networking between meetings so that Group Action Planning members can share best-practice; keep motivation and morale up; and identify any issues that need to be addressed by the next stage of action.


© Parker Duignan 2013-2019. Parker Duignan is a trading name of The Ideas Web Ltd.