Rethinking Common Backbone Functions as Capacities

In 2011, John Kania and Mark Kramer issued a foundational article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review that identified five conditions for organizations to achieve large-scale social change and the instrumental role that backbone organizations have coordinating and facilitating cross-sector collaboration. Today, backbone organizations and partners are still well positioned to assess and respond to community needs—particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice movements, and economic hardships. But shifting systems requires repurposing certain functions from the backbone and devolving some of them to partners for stronger community ownership. In this resource, Mathematica and Equal Measure grouped backbone functions into four categories and identified some of the key capacities to perform these functions effectively to achieve collective goals throughout a community.
About the Author

As the learning and evaluation partners for the P-16 Community Investment initiative—a three-year, five-community effort funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—Equal Measure and Mathematica produced a series of six resources and tools to help community stakeholders, funders, practitioners, and researchers understand and support the development of coherent, high-functioning, equity-centered place-based systems that span all sectors. Learn more about this project.