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Recording Online: Innovative Tools for Poverty Reduction Practitioners - Whole System Collaborative Outcome Mapping

Submitted by Natasha Pei on April 4, 2018 - 3:48am
A webinar featuring Keith Jones and Dena Kae Beno

This webinar will introduce you to Whole System Collaborative Outcome Mapping (COM) - a process and framework that can provide integral support to Collective Impact work when it is co-created by roundtable members and applied by a diverse group to complex systemic challenges, such as poverty.

Participants will learn how COMaps can integrate and link all interventions to outcomes, all outcomes to a long-term goal, and the goal to multiple impacts; with a focus on the powerful but simple Zone Map Canvas tool. We will then conclude with a deep-dive into Abbotsford, BC's Homelessness Strategy, where the city coordinated  the development of the COMap, Collaborative Roadmap to Abbotsford Homelessness Prevention and Response, and is now working with several stakeholders to implement the initiative.

Watch the Recording

After the session, Keith and Dena provided writen responses to your additional webinar questions.
If you have additional comments or questions, please reach out to 

Question: What was the name of the Service Canada grant that Dena mentioned?
Response (Dena): The City of Abbotsford received contribution funding through Service Canada's Research and Innovation funding stream.

Question: Where can I get more information on the process of producing a PMF (performance measurement framework) Reference Map?
Response (Keith): We have several COM projects where we have used both the process (COM) and the product (COMap) to inform and structure the design and development of a performance measurement framework. In some of these projects, the need for developing an outcome or results-based performance measurement (and management) system was what instigated the COM work. Please contact us for more information.

Response (Dena): The Shared Outcome/Performance Measurement work that the City of Abbotsford is conducting is a two-phased project that is being led by Keith Jones and Bob Yates through the COM process. The outcomes from this will support on-going coordination and alignment of multi-sectoral activities, continuous feedback to the systems work, and will help to inform the City's policy advocacy and shared funding plans towards the community infrastructure that is required to prevent and respond to homelessness in Abbotsford.

Question: Many of the linkages on map appeared linear. One action to one outcome. But in reality, one action can affect many outcomes. How is this handled?
Response (Keith): Yes, in reality that can be true. For practical primarily accountability reasons we have modelled the initial action/intervention -> 1st order outcome “couplet” as only 1 to 1. In so doing, are very particular with our language we use in the two statements accordingly. Subsequently, that same 1st order outcome can then contribute either in a 1:1 or 1:many flow to other higher order outcomes downstream. So in our case, handle the multiple contribution situations at the outcome level, one step further downstream. Because these maps are often complex, in a similar way, we try and minimize the linkage of outcomes between the capacity area (clusters). While there may be a relationship, you’d end up being tempted to connect almost every outcome to every other outcome. You can image the mess! 

Question: The COMap appears to be a one-time creation, as many actions are created and change over time. How do address as initiatives change and new actions, new partners and emerging outcomes are realized?
Response (Keith): First, it is important to note that each COMap should have a clearly marked date on it. Second, the backbone/stewardship group for the COMap (on behalf of the collaborator “community” more broadly), should institute a “change management process” that, over time, captures and organizes errors, issues, suggested changes, etc. for improving the COMap. At some point, the this stewardship group may decide that there are enough changes to warrant an updating of a new version of the COMap. We are actually about to do this for the Victoria Foundation for Greater Victoria’s Food Security COMap (after 5 years). Changes to the COMap should be properly coordinated and considered thoughtfully or else its value will be soon diminished, particularly when different versions of the map are created by different groups! It is important to note that the COMap at one point in time is – well – a Theory of Change and as such it its to be used and adjusted accordingly. It is sometimes helpful to think of each causal segment as a hypothesis for how we think change will occur. If a high quality, attentive Design Team co-created the COMap it may serve as a strong, useful and relevant framework for 5, maybe 10 years.

Question: Is there a way through the COM process to assign different weights to various actions to determine which ones are most important? Also, do you compare the COM with the existing flow of funding through the shifting system to see if there are gaps or areas that are overcapitalized?
Response (Keith): Yes. If our clients decide to have a Community Forum following the completion of the COMap, then one of the processes at the Forum by the participants can be to indicate which interventions or outcomes are highest priority. For example, at Abbotsford’s first Community Forum we had around 70 participants (invited by the Design Team of 25 people) who each were given only 7 priority dots to place on the map (490 priority dots were placed in total). We subsequently analyzed this placement to create a Priorities Map along with some associated spreadsheet charts. From this analysis we could see where the collective priorities were in the COMap.

The COMap can and has also been used to guide the distribution and allocation of investments by funders. For example, in the background package, one of the slides shows the allocation of investments by different funders in different colours on the map for Greater Victoria’s Food Security COMap. Subsequently, the call for proposals, instructed proponents to identify collaborative opportunities and align their objectives and work plans in relation to the actions and outcomes in the COMap. I believe Abbotsford is also using their COMap to better assess and coordinate investments, and address critical funding gaps.

Question: What was the most innovative learning that you experienced during the process?
Response (Dena): The Research Design team, informant interviews, and mobilization of action items through on-going collaboration of multi-sectoral stakeholders was a "new way" of doing things in Abbotsford.  Many local stakeholders have relayed that through this process, they recognized the first steps of transformative change.  The COM is just as much about the process as it is about the map that is generated at the end.  The greatest value has been the intentional grounding and purpose-aligned focus that Keith and Bob have brought through the COM approach and how this can unravel and re-align strategies and outcomes to respond to complex issues.  This truly has been innovation in action.

Response (Keith): If you have a carefully selected and motivated Design Team, the COMap invariably will form a strong intentional foundation for transformative change. The process seems to provide a safe space for conversations these groups seldom if ever have been able to have before around some very complex societal challenges. The process and setting help to build important enduring relationships, and ultimately trust.

Question: Have you encountered the need to manage relationships with organizations and agencies who fall outside key road maps within the community?
Response (Keith): Not so much, perhaps in part because any group that may be affected is often included in some way in the process, either as a member of the Design Team or as a participant in the Community Forum; or as a participant in other processes as the COMap is implemented. Ongoing and broad-based outreach and communication are essential. Dena’s work in Abbotsford is outstanding in this regard.


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