In January, the University of Denver (DU) announced the launch of four Collective Impact Cohorts to bring together university-community teams for the Action phase of DU Grand Challenges Improving Daily Living theme. The teams include undergraduate students, graduate students, staff, faculty, and community members.
Each Cohort has been charged with building a shared agenda and collaborative actions to address a specific issue area that is central to improving daily living in our communities. The issue areas include crime and safety, migration, urban sustainability, and food and housing insecurity in our communities.
The Cohorts bring together a distinctive mix of multidisciplinary academic and community expertise. At the first meeting, a member of the Crime and Safety Cohort commented, “It was so exciting to be in the room with such diversity! I love how big the themes and ideas are right now.”
The Cohort members’ diverse perspectives have been essential as they work their way through a facilitated collective impact process. For example, the Cohorts collaborated in the first two meetings to build a shared understanding of their issue areas, including root causes of problems. They brought existing data to bear on their examination of root causes of problems and potential actions.
As they move closer to action plans, Cohort members are formulating ideas and building new collaborative relationships. By bringing together groups of faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students, and community members, the Cohorts provide a space to collaborate and learn from the experiences of one another. An undergraduate student in the Migration Cohort, commented “I feel I’m making more relationships within the Cohort and that I have a good understanding of what we’re doing.” The strong relationships being built within Cohorts have been essential to their work towards actions that are mutually-reinforcing and collaborative.
Between now and June, Cohorts will convene to flesh out strategies for collaborative action to make measurable impacts in partnership with communities. The strategies that each Cohort takes moving forward will serve as a starting point for broader systems-level change.