About the Oakbrook Collective Impact Council
Beginning in 2018, United Way of Berks County formed the Oakbrook Collective Impact Council (OCIC). The OCIC consisted of individuals representing various nonprofits, education partners, the corporate sector, and Oakbrook residents. Using the Collective Impact model, community partners worked together to address food access and to educate and connect Oakbrook residents with community resources. This was a multi-year process, where the group looked to address the root cause of an issue and create positive change.
In 2023, United Way transitioned this work to the Reading Housing Authority, but many efforts are ongoing as a result of the OCIC:
- United Way continues to support Berks Community Health Center’s Oakbrook Outreach Specialist who develops relationships with residents and connects them with community resources and opportunities.
- OCIC helped facilitate a partnership with Girls On The Run to launch a team for girls in the Oakbrook area in spring 2022 and there will again be a team in 2023.
- Through Community Conversations held in Oakbrook in 2021, residents shared the need for more programming for teens and young adults as well as family-friendly activities. With a grant from United Way, Barrio Alegria launched the Oakbrook Located Art Sessions (OLAS) in 2022 to meet this need. They have hosted a fashion show, garden rock painting, karaoke night, poetry workshop, salsa lessons, yoga sessions, a hip hop dance class and more. With ongoing United Way support, OLAS will continue to connect teens, young adults and families with opportunities.
- Residents expressed the need for and access to ESL classes. OCIC Members and Oakbrook residents went through the English Forward training with the Literacy Council to be able to teach ESL classes to the residents in Oakbrook. The classes are offered at no cost, right in the neighborhood to remove the transportation barrier.
- The Oakbrook Community Garden launched in 2021, helping the Oakbrook community gain access to more affordable, healthy food options through the Community Garden initiative was an important first step. In 2022, every plot was filled and the garden was a hub of activity, with neighbors developing relationships and sharing produce. The next step for the garden is to assist with changing eating behaviors through nutrition education. The 18th Wonder Improvement Association will infuse Garden Based Learning (GBL) into the Community Garden in 2023. United Way provided a LIVE UNITED Grant to the 18th Wonder to support The Garden & Nutrition Education Program, which will impact children by providing hands on education aligned with K-8 curriculum to help making healthy choices more accessible and easier for the youth in the neighborhood.
About Collective Impact
Collective impact occurs when organizations from different sectors agree to solve a social problem using a common agenda and a structured form of collaboration. In contrast, isolated impact occurs when organizations primarily work alone to solve social problems. Successful collective impact collaborations include 5 conditions to ensure success:
- Common Agenda – All participants share a vision for change that includes a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving the problem through agreed-upon actions.
- Shared Measurement – All participating organizations agree on the ways success will be measured and reported, with a short list of common indicators identified and used for learning and improvement.
- Mutually Reinforcing – Activities A diverse set of stakeholders, typically across sectors, coordinate a set of differentiated activities through a mutually reinforcing plan of action.
- Continuous Communication – All players engage in frequent and structured open communication to build trust, assure mutual objectives and create common motivation.
- Backbone Support – An independent, funded staff dedicated to the initiative provides ongoing support by guiding the initiative’s vision and strategy, supporting aligned activities, establishing shared measurement practices, building public will, advancing policy and mobilizing resources.
We recommend the following articles to learn more about Collective Impact:
Collective Impact, by John Kania and Mark Kramer
Aligning Collective Impact Initiatives, by Merita Irby and Patrick Boyle
Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work, by Fay Hanleybrown, John Kania and Mark Kramer
Embracing Emergence: How Collective Impact Addresses Complexity, Stanford Social Innovation Review, by John Kania and Mark Kramer