Evaluation of Collective Impact Initiatives

How are collective impact efforts making a difference in their communities? How can initiatives better serve the students, families, and communities they’re working to support? In evaluating a collective impact initiative, the Education Northwest team strikes a careful balance between tracking emerging system-level changes to demonstrate change on a broad scale and providing real-time, actionable data to inform improvement. Our evaluators bring expertise in designing formative, developmental evaluations and extensive knowledge of the collective impact work happening across the Northwest and nationally.

Examples of Recent Work

What Clients Will Learn

We work closely with clients to develop and adapt the evaluation to best meet the needs of all partners: the backbone organization, funders, community-based organizations, school districts, local government, community groups, and families. In past work, we have conducted interviews and surveys and regularly attended project meetings to provide ongoing, actionable feedback on:

  • How the core strategies from the initiative’s theory of action affected change within organizations and across systems, and how stakeholders anticipated these strategies would lead to further changes
  • Stakeholders’ perceptions of the key milestones met and the challenges the initiative faced
  • The degree to which partners were supported in the work and the types of assistance needed


The structure of a collective impact evaluation will depend on the developmental stage of the initiative. For example, in past work with an initiative that was entering the implementation stage, we:

  • Co-created detailed theories of action and logic models with the backbone organization to identify the project’s core strategies and key mechanisms for change and to provide a framework for structuring the evaluation questions
  • Collected and analyzed interview and survey data on the changes that were occurring within and across organizations as a result of the collective impact initiative to track the emergence or strengthening of cross-sector systems
  • Held regular face-to-face meetings and conference calls with the backbone organization to discuss themes that surfaced from the formative data, related this feedback to the project’s theory of action, and developed a plan to disseminate actionable findings across the project

Associated Files