Collective Impact: Backbone of Support

The backbone of support is a key aspect of the collective impact model. The backbone serves as a guide to partner organizations to fulfill the shared vision. On the surface a backbone organization might be construed as unnecessary overhead, however, they serve an important purpose and when done well they do represent a high return on investment for their partners.

Backbone Organizations:

  1. Guide vision and strategy
  2. Support aligned activities
  3. Establish shared measurement practices
  4. Build public will
  5. Advance policy
  6. Mobilize Funding

(Turner, 2012)

Having a central collective allows for greater alignment to the overall vision. Shared measurement allows the backbone organization to aggregate data from more sources and paints a clearer picture of existing resources, gaps in services, and areas of over or undersaturation. This allows partner organizations to tailor services for greater impact.

One of the major advantages to the backbone support organization is its ability to influence public perception and advance policy in support of the initiative. This is, in part, a result of having developed a shared vision, supported aligning activities, and establishing measurement practices. This combination allows the collective to focus their message more effectively, painting a clear picture of the current state of affairs, the impact the efforts are producing, and the steps needed to continue making forward progress toward the goal. (Turner, 2012)

Resources for Developing a Backbone Organization

Backbone of Support by lorrea.hall


CollaborateUp (2018). Backbone Organizations: A Field Guide 27 Ways to Drive Impact in Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives. Retrieved from:

The Strategic Backbone Toolkit (2014). Retrieved November 23, 2019, from

Turner, S., Merchant, K., Kania, J. & Martin, E. (2012) Understanding the Value of Backbone Organizations in Collective Impact: Part I. Stanford Social Innovation Review, July 2012.  Retrieved from: (Links to an external site.)