Various Tulsa Area Organizations Working Toward a Collective Impact

ENCOURAGING LITERACY: Working to encourage literacy among Tulsa-area youth are, from left, Dave Shirley, chair, Tulsa Area United Way’s Emerging Leaders Society; Kathy Taylor, CEO, Impact Tulsa; and Paula Huck, chair, Tulsa Area United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council.

ROSSY GILLE for GTR Newspapers

An example of a new collaborative initiative for the betterment of society is IMPACT! Tulsa, an alliance seeking to improve local educational outcomes from “cradle to career.”

IMPACT! Tulsa is based on the national Strive initiative, which has moved the needle in schools in Cincinnati, Ohio, significantly increasing high school graduation rates, fourth grade reading and math scores, and the number of preschool children prepared for kindergarten. Impact Tulsa is being led by former Tulsa Mayor and Oklahoma Education Secretary Kathy Taylor and involves a wide variety of community organizations, including public schools, social service agencies and the Tulsa Area United Way.

“Making a meaningful impact on our community – in education, health or economic opportunity – will require all of us coming together and working toward the same goal,” says Mark R. Graham, President and of the Tulsa Area United Way.

“To make large-scale social change, all of us – funders, service agencies and community leaders – must work together, sharing the same goals, data and measures of success,” Graham says.

That’s why the Tulsa Area United Way is placing increased focus on a new social change model known as collective impact – multiple organizations working closely together to make a difference.

To that end, the local United Way recently began investing in collaborative initiatives and innovative venture projects, in addition to annual investments in its 60 partner agencies and emergency funding.

“Annual investments will always be part of our model, to sustain our partner agencies and their expert work,” Graham says. “But collaborating with other organizations and encouraging our partner agencies to do so will increasingly become part of our mode of operation.”

The Tulsa Area United Way has invested in several collaborative initiatives in recent years, including projects to reduce the homeless population, prevent teen pregnancy, and promote the study of math and science in public schools. In addition, a variety of venture grants have been awarded to area organizations. “In many ways, our partner agencies have been working together for years to address social problems,” says Kathy Seibold, vice president for Community Investments. “We’re encouraging our agencies to form even closer alliances focused both on achieving quicker results as well as making lasting long-term change.”

To help, the local United Way is strengthening data collection, scanning the local environment and determining areas in which multiple agencies can work together.

Five conditions of collective success include: adopting a common agenda, sharing the same measurement systems, coordinating responses to make progress, engaging in continuous communication and forming a backbone organization to drive the entire initiative, according to John Kania and Mark Kramer in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

“I believe the United Way is ideally situated to serve as a community convener, if you will, determining the greatest needs in our community and mobilizing alliances to respond in a collective manner,” Graham says.

For successful examples of collective impact nationwide, see the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

For more information about IMPACT! Tulsa, visit

Updated 06-29-2015

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