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This Alliance creates a physical and virtual infrastructure for collective impact through cooperation among all climate related stakeholders



Prior attempts at collaboration among climate stakeholders in Boulder have so far failed as a result of constraints such as lack of proper methodologies and techniques to guide the collective impact process. Partnership building and long-term sustainability require specialized social innovation skills that have been missing in Boulder's past attempts. Hence, the need for this contest.

The innovative nature of this proposal aims to rectify that by utilizing participatory methodologies and techniques that have been honed over decades in a wide variety of contexts to improve collaboration among a wide spectrum of stakeholder groups as well as continue to sustain and improve it through use of monitoring and evaluation systems. This two-pronged combination has not been attempted in Boulder county to date and it's time has come.

The scope and activities of Alliance collaborative initiatives are not to be determined a priori by this proposal. Instead, they will emerge from the shared vision, skills, and agency of Alliance members who commit to creating cooperative synergistic partnerships to address the vast complexity of climate related realities. The Alliance fosters and supports partners and encourages creativity and commitment to craft innovative responses to the greatest challenge facing us all. These may range from macro level (e.g. policies and legal frameworks), to meso level (e.g. scientific research/implementation and service delivery), to micro level (e.g. community, family, or personal behavioral change).

This proposal is a social innovation that accords with the definition:

Collective Impact Initiatives are long-term commitments by a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem. Their actions are supported by a shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities, and ongoing communication, and are staffed by an independent backbone organization.


What actions do you propose?

The first action proposed is to build upon the foundation of existing efforts through the review of current climate stakeholder mapping, such as those already conducted by C3 and MyCoNet,  among others.This will provide the initial data necessary to extend an open invitation to all stakeholder groups (e.g. public sector institutions, NGOs, private sector companies, virtual organizations, academics, students, professionals, religious traditions, media, as well as concerned individuals) to attend the Alliance's main inagural actions: an initial strategic planning workshop using the participative management methodology known as Future Search. This is to be followed several weeks later by a second workshop launching the Alliance's Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation system.

Both methodologies proposed for the initial stages of the Alliance have proven records of success. Both tap existing knowledge and resources by creating spaces and offering structured techniques to awaken the underlying aspirations that humans across all cultures share in common: the wish to be heard and understood by one's peers, the desire to add meaning and value to one's community, and the yearning and expectation to participate fully in decisions that affect us. Only by empowering these do they succeed.

It is important to emphasize that the main innovative aspect of this proposal is not solely the creation of a new alliance. Instead, the innovation being proposed is the Alliance's use of methodologies and techniques that access these basic human aspirations. They are based on the premise that bringing stakeholders together in a real or virtual room is a necessary but NOT sufficient condition to foster common ground and achieve optimal sustained collaboration.  

Therefore this proposal aims to go beyond previous or existing collaborative efforts by relying on various disciplines that have been long established and continue to expand the principles and best practices to achieve innovative collective impact, such as Participative Management, Participatory Development, Social Network Theory, among others. 

More specifically, the Future Search workshop's primary objective is to bring together representatives of the maximum variety of stakeholder groups in Boulder County found in the above mentioned mappings so that they may find a 'whole system' common ground while looking at themselves both in a global as well as in a local context. It also aims to provide participants with the opportunity to experience the brilliance and power of collaborative system-wide thinking and action. This workshop culminates with the creation of new initiatives/partnerships and/or the improvement of existing ones.   The workshop's secondary objective is the creation of the Alliance's governance and management infrastructure.

Participants at the initial Future Search workshop would be free to join or abstain from forming collaborative impact initiatives. They would choose their own timing to join as there may be iterative rounds of similar workshops providing new opportunities to do so in the medium and long term.

Videos related to the Future Search approach may be found at:

The Future Search process being proposed may be summarized as follows[2]:

Phase 1    

Focus on Past: Participants make time lines of key events in the world, in the history of local climate-related initiatives, and in their own lives. Small groups recount stories about each time line and their implications for the creation of the Alliance.

Focus on Present External Trends: All participants jointly create a visual map of global trends affecting them and determine those trends most likely to affect the Alliance.

The first phase accomplishes: (i) The creation of shared context; (ii) The expression of values on the context; and (iii) the realization of collective action and decision making as a group.


Phase 2    

Focus on Present External Trends: Stakeholder groups present what they are doing now about key trends and what they want to do in the future.

The second phase is characterized by more detailed specific knowledge and corresponds to defining the operating environment of the Alliance.

Phase 3    

Focus on Present: Stakeholder groups describe their successes and failures dealing with climate focused collaborations.

The emphasis of the third phase is the evolution of collaborative initiatives, why and how they came (or did not come) into being. Time lines are drawn and past successes and constraints are discussed. This serves the purpose of consciously sharing the current system while also appreciating its history.


Phase 4    

Ideal Future Scenarios: Various stakeholder groups visualize their preferred future collaborations and describe them to the group as if already accomplished.


Identify common ground: Various groups post themes they believe are common ground for all.

The fourth phase stresses creativity and innovation instead of focusing on the feasibility of proposed changes. It favors experimental and unconventional conceptions of what climate collaboration could entail.

Phase 5    

Confirm common ground: The whole group dialogues to agree on common ground.         

Action Planning: Diverse strategies are created in brainstorming mode. Strategies are broken down into a broad range of specific collaborative initiative(s) designed by the stakeholders themselves who are thus committing to implementing them. Collaborative action plans are agreed upon by all partners in each initiative. A mutually agreed upon simple governance and management infrastructure including a participatory monitoring framework provide a transparent managing and progress tracking system for the whole Alliance.

Within four to six weeks after the  initial set of collaborative initiatives has been formed a follow-up workshop will be scheduled to design the Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) system for each initiative being launched as well as for the overall activities of the Alliance administration. Reporting on PME indicators agreed upon and other qualitative/quantitative data being collected are to be shared by each initiative's stakeholders via electronic platform(s) and periodic follow-up gatherings.

Some of the benefits of PME include:

1.     Provides opportunities and tools for dialogue and learning among multi-stakeholders across power and other differences

2.     Emphasizes taking responsibility, becoming more transparent, and improves horizontal as well as vertical accountability at macro, meso, and micro levels of the initiatives

3.     Enhances trust, negotiation, and dialogue

4.     Encompasses the social learning process as much as the technical process

5.     Creates space for participation by expanding the range of stakeholders thus building broader ownership and commitment

6.     Incorporates feedback and information of one round of PME processes into future rounds of decision-making and implementation – essential for success and sustainability.

Videos related to PME approaches may be found at:

In response to the two questions posed in the contest's initial evaluation board, the proposal author has learned that no other organization in Boulder County is implementing planning exercises to foster long-term sustained creation of collective impact initiatives as defined above. The only attempts currently underway or being planned are those listed in this contest, for example MyCoNet, a group which has been contacted and would like to join the efforts put forth in this Alliance proposal.

With great respect for fellow contestants and in a spirit of frank collaboration, having reviewed the 26 entries responding to this contest, each and all 25 of them would achieve greater collective impact by joining the most comprehensive of all proposals, the Boulder County Climate Alliance. Such a move would allow them to keep the integrity of their respective visions, missions, and agency while, at the same time, greatly enhance the synergies created by partnership(s) with others. These 25 innovations are all well-thought out initiatives that would benefit from learning from each other and finding synergistic links among them. As C3 puts it:  1+1>2.

The second and main question asked was clarification as to the relationship between this Alliance and C3-Boulder.  The proposal author is a member of C3 with over two decades of experience in Participatory Sustainable Development implemented worldwide, for example by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and by the World Bank's Community Driven Development (CDD) initiatives. Based on this experience of similar efforts elsewhere in the world, the author knows that to ensure optimal collective impact would necessitate some form of continuing institutional support and oversight. From the point of inception of the Alliance set forth in this proposal the author has envisioned C3 as the best possible institutional agent that could implement, support, and coordinate the efforts of the Boulder County Alliance. If C3 so desired, the Alliance could then become one among many other of its initiatives.

Who will take these actions?

The initial actions envisioned, i.e. the Future Search and PME workshops, are to be designed and facilitated by social change conveners and specialists in participatory approaches to sustainable management and development. At present they include the person responsible for this proposal, Violeta Manoukian, Senior International Consultant in Participatory Sustainable Development, and the Colorado Chapter of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), an affiliate providing consultation advice on stakeholder involvement.  Potential conveners contacted so far include: MyCoNet Boulder, and the Latin American Center for Arts, Science, and Education (CLACE) Boulder.  Additional conveners, for example BoCo Strong, an organization building a culture of resilience throughout Boulder County, as well as organizations representing previously excluded stakeholder groups will be sought to ensure diversity and inclusion across age, gender, ethnic, and socio-economic divides.

Subsequent actions will be the responsibility of the Alliance management team acting to facilitate communication and support the collaborative initiatives agreed upon by Alliance members. The ensuing strategies and initiatives will be chosen, designed, implemented, monitored, and evaluated by the Alliance members themselves. 


What are the key challenges?

Achieving multiple stakeholder buy in to accomplish whole system collaboration

Attaining diversity and inclusion of previously excluded stakeholder groups in Boulder County

Sustaining commitment to agreed upon strategies and initiatives

Obtaining ongoing funding to support Alliance management and implementation costs over the long term

What are the key benefits?

Democratic whole system thinking, decision-making, and action

Maximizing synergies for optimal impact

Transparency and accountability

Improved economic opportunities

Enhanced community wellbeing

Scaling up potential (e.g. state, national, global)

What are the proposal’s costs?

It is not feasible to estimate the proposal's costs at this time due to the nature of the activities being proposed. Instead, potential costs are itemized below but the dollar figures are to be determined based on timing and availability.

Launching Cost categories:

Cost of number of days x professional fees required to plan, design, and host Future Search and PME workshops

Cost venue rental, audio/visual equipment, and workshop materials for Future Search and PME workshops

Advertising costs

Possible out of town facilitators' travel, hotel, per diem

Food and refreshments for participants (coffee breaks and/lunches)

Post launching cost categories:

On-going operating costs

Professional fees for specific Alliance staff


Time line

1) Immediate action: review and analysis of current stakeholder mappings

2) Short term: Depending on availability of resources, extend invitation to participate in initial Future Search workshop 

3) Four to six weeks after the Future Search workshop launching the collaborative initiatives: Extend Invitation to Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) workshop: 

4) The time line and participatory monitoring of the collaborative initiatives to be carried out by Alliance members are to be determined by their respective multiple-stakeholder self-managing teams themselves.

5) The time line of the Alliance governance and management support and stewardship self-renewing infrastructure is dependent upon the duration of the initial collaborative initiatives as well as any subsequent future activities agreed upon by Alliance members. In other words, the collective impact activities described in this proposal are envisioned only as a beginning; the Alliance is meant to create a space and foster a culture of whole-system collaboration so it may flourish and yield multiple harvests of renewable innovative initiatives over time (short, medium, or long term).

Related proposals

Tipping Point Action: Citizen Participation in Times of Unprecedented Challenges


 Kania, John and Kramer, Mark: "Collective Impact", Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011, pp. 36-41.

 Wesibord, Marvin et al:Discovering Common Ground: How FUTURE SEARCH CONFERENCES Bring People Together to Achieve Breakthrough Innovation, Empowerment, Shared Vision, and Collaborative Action, Barrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 1992.

Future Search Net:

Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PME): An Introductory Pack, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, February 1997.

Estrella, Marisol and Gaventa, John: "Who Counts Reality? Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation: A Literature Review", Institute of Development Studies Working Paper 70, University of Sussex, 1997,

"Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation: Learning from Change", IDS Policy Briefing, Issue 12, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, November 1998.

Jackson, E. T. (1998). Indicators of change: Results-based management and participatory evaluation. In E. T. Jackson & Y. Kassam (Eds.), Knowledge shared: Participatory evaluation in development cooperation (pp. 50-63), West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press.

Jackson, E. T., & Kassam, Y. (Eds.) (1998). Knowledge shared: Participatory evaluation in development cooperation. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian Press.

Evaluating adaptation to climate change from a development perspective, IDS Institutte of Development Studies, University of Sussex 2004-08

 Manoukian, Violeta. Participatory Development: Paradigm Shift in Theory and Practice, M.A. Thesis with distinction, Carleton University, Ottawa, 1989.

Future Search Conference Images:


Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation Images: