because complex social issues cannot be solved alone.

The most longstanding social issues tend to be complex issues. They demand quality collaboration and cannot be addressed in a fragmented way.

Collaboration can enhance efficiency, effectiveness and expand the scope of our impact to the broader system. To reap these benefits, we need to adopt a systems change mindset, where we seek to understand and shift the conditions that hold a problem in place. We need to think beyond our individual agencies and programmes to optimize our collective influence in the entire landscape and avoid working in silos.

By working together for systems change, we can build a collaborative and impactful social service ecosystem with better outcomes for service users.

To facilitate effective collaboration, NCSS has been driving the Collective Impact approach. The approach provides a structure for multiple organisations to forge a common agenda for solving a complex social issue. NCSS supports interested SSAs by connecting relevant partners, and providing learning, and funding resources.

Collaboration means working with the right people and information to tackle the toughest issues.
By working together in a structured way, we can make a bigger impact and effect real change in the systems behind these issues.
The Collective Impact approach uses data to drive our thinking and doing.

What is Collective Impact?

Collective Impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem in a structured way.

Collaboration Spectrum

The Collaboration Spectrum is a tool that helps to assess and clarify the current and desired levels of collaboration among stakeholders, ranging from competition to integration. Trust becomes more important as the level of collaboration increases.

One form of deep collaboration is Collective Impact.

Under Collective Impact, a group of actors from different sectors develop a common agenda for solving a specific social problem using a structured form of collaboration. These are the five conditions that characterize Collective Impact .

Collaboration 5 Conditions of Collective Impact Annotated


3 Questions - Collaboration

Kick-start your collaboration journey with these 3 simple starter questions. They help to identify whether a Collective Impact approach should be used and clarify whether the pre-conditions of Collective Impact are present. Addressing these early on is key to avoiding problems later on.

Collaboration Process

Collaboration can be summarized in 5 main steps, adapted from NCSS VRO's "Guide on Service-Based Volunteering Partnership Models and Case Studies V1.0". 

Start collaborating today!
Ready to get started?

Here are some foundational tools and resources to begin.

Collective Impact Masterclass

From 2020 to 2023, NCSS partnered with Tamarack Institute to organise a series of learning sessions on the Collective Impact approach among local practitioners. Tamarack Institute builds the capacity of changemakers and develops collaborative strategies that engage citizens and institutions to solve major community issues across Canada and beyond.

Watch these videos to learn more about Collective Impact.

Introduction to Collective Impact (6 min)


Introduction to Backbone Governance (4 min)


More videos on Collective Impact on YouTube.

Colabs Toolkit

The NVPC toolkit includes Colabs' 3 core principles, 3-phase journey, and 10-step process for sensemaking of complex issues, which can be adapted to different social issues and modalities, and is experientially-grounded.

4ST Playbook on Strategic Partnerships

The 4ST Playbook on Strategic Partnerships outlines steps to foster strategic and sustainable partnerships between different sectors and stakeholders for greater impact.

Ready to start your collaboration journey? Apply for the NCSS 4ST Partnership Fund.

The NCSS 4ST Partnership Fund aims to mobilise the sector to develop solutions that promote innovation, collaboration and empowerment, with the end outcome of improving the quality of life of service users - including Families, Children and Youth, Persons with Mental Health Conditions and Caregivers, amongst others.

If you have a project in mind, apply for the 4ST Partnership Fund, open between 1-31 October 2023.

To find out more about collaboration, contact

Learn more about other strategic approaches to service delivery, such as empowerment and innovation.