Applying a Collective Impact Framework to Employment Inclusion

Collective Impact, first articulated in the Stanford Social Innovation Review in 2011, is a framework for addressing complex social problems by engaging multiple sectors and stakeholders in a coordinated effort – with specific stages and clearly defined goals. With regard to the employment inclusion of marginalized populations, this approach is in stark contrast to the typical strategies we’ve seen in Canada. Service providers, policy makers and the business community work in relative isolation and generally ‘react’ to each other – and to marginalized job-seekers. It has been a well-intentioned but not particularly collaborative approach and we’re still faced with the same issue now as when this journey started thirty years ago.

People with disabilities and Indigenous People remain underrepresented in the Canadian workforce and experience higher rates of social exclusion and poverty.

Employment participation statistics for these marginalized (and growing) groups haven’t moved more than a couple of percentage points since the 90’s. This fact exposes deficiencies in our past and current approaches to employment inclusion policies, strategies and interventions. This issue is all the more confusing when one considers the number of service providers working on inclusion, the number of marginalized people who want to work, the number of businesses willing to engage in inclusive hiring and the efforts of policy makers to increase employment participation of underrepresented groups. Why isn’t ‘the needle’ of employment inclusion moving?

Collective Impact may answer this question with its very definition; we’re not defining and responding to the problem in a collaborative and coordinated way with the engagement and commitment of all four ‘participant groups.’ No matter how effective our individual efforts and how successful our individual interventions – there is virtually no change on a society wide scale.

The Canadian Association for Supported Employment has committed to initiate, drive and participate in Canada’s first National Collective Impact Initiative to Increase the Employment Inclusion of People with Disabilities. The 2016 National Supported Employment Inclusion Conference to be held in Edmonton, AB from June 14-16 will be ground zero for this initiative’s commencement. It is the intent of CASE to connect all stakeholder groups, facilitate the exchange of ideas to initiate action and to move forward together towards a stronger and more diverse Canadian workplace.

It’s time to collaborate, to develop a common agenda, to organize for impact. Our collective efforts need to generate better results for Canadians, whatever our separate motivations may be. What better place than here? What better time than now – to move the needle?