Going Beyond Collaboration to Trigger System Change

Suna’nın Kızları


This is the story of going beyond collaboration to trigger system change in advancing girls’ rights through collective effort. 

Suna’nın Kızları, an initiative aiming to support girls in Turkey through Collective Impact, kicked off its journey under the umbrella of Suna and Inan Kıraç Foundation in 2022. Collaboration is common among civil society actors, yet, collective impact is a relatively new term for the ecosystem. Knowing that collective impact is more than collaboration, we designed a working group model that would make the collective endeavor of all actors greater than the sum of their individual initiatives. The working group model consisted of an extensive guideline and a manual to accompany key stakeholders as reference documents along the collective impact journey.

The Suna’nın Kızları story showcases how going beyond collaboration helped us shift organizations’ attention from individual interventions to triggering system change through collective effort.

The Challenge

How might we create a model which unites multiple stakeholders around a common cause to trigger system-level change?

In a nutshell...

1- Dive deep and uncover the core needs of the stakeholders 

2- Zoom out to map the big picture and define the key actors 

3- Zoom in to design the model and experience journey 

4- Create the necessary tools and resources to kick-start the journey

The Story

Going Beyond Collaboration to Trigger System Change

Suna’nın Kızları is an initiative operating under the “Suna ve İnan Kıraç Foundation” to carry the legacy of the late Suna Kıraç, a businesswoman dedicated to the field of education and girls’ rights throughout her life. Suna’nın Kızları aims to support disadvantaged girls in Turkey through collective impact framework and systems thinking approach.

There are many ongoing initiatives and joined efforts by civil society actors focusing on advancing girls’ rights and education in Turkey. Yet, most of these efforts are isolated from each other as there is a lack of meaningful infrastructure to unite them under a common agenda that would go beyond mere means of collaboration. It’s important to understand that there is a great potential that lies in joint efforts when designed strategically, enabling actors to unite around a shared purpose (a common cause) and under an overarching agenda.

Seeing this untapped potential, Suna’nın Kızları embarked on a collective impact journey and joined forces with us to design their Working Group model for systemic change. Based on the principle of equity, they took on the role of a “Backbone Organization” role and also serve as a funding organization. As a community-led initiative, through this endeavor, they aim to pave the way to surpass the hierarchy between funders and beneficiaries and make sure that girls are equally and efficiently included in all decision-making processes.

Here are four key steps to designing a working group model to trigger systemic change:

Step 1

Dive deep and uncover the needs of the stakeholders

When designing for collective impact, it is easy to fall into the trap of following the usual methods of collaboration without considering the specific needs of the actors involved, assuming they are all on the same page, to begin with.  

It is essential to realize that while these actors may be working around the same problem, they might not share the exact needs, aspirations, and expectations. The key is to create a model rooted in the stakeholders’ core needs and expectations and open to evolving with ever-changing needs. Once those needs are analyzed and taken as the foundation of the model design, then all parties can iterate their journey guided by core principles and experiences. 

At Suna’nın Kızları, we designed a hands-on workshop where the potential members of the working group came together for the first time and co-designed the experience journey map of their prospective collaboration. Discussing each possible milestone has allowed the civil actors to foresee their potential needs and concerns, voice their expectations on behalf of their organization, and express their aspirations and goals regarding the process. These findings served as an input for creating the foundations of the Working Group model.

Step 2

Zoom out to map the big picture and define the key actors

Once you understand and are aligned on the needs and expectations of the stakeholders, it is imperative first to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, and define the key actors leading the process.

As with any other initiative that works towards a common agenda within a set time frame, the role of an initiator organization becomes crucial. As the model will be implemented by a group of participants, a working group per se, this group will take on various roles and responsibilities separately but in coherence with one another. Therefore, a facilitator is critical in implementing the model, leading the process step by step, and ensuring all other parties are informed. Another vital role is a strategic guide group to ensure that the agenda is followed and overlooked strategically throughout the journey. As with any other complex problem, the working groups have to work hand in hand with enablers, i.e., other stakeholders from the public or private sector, as well as local communities. As such, it is essential to understand that third-party involvement and support are crucial and should be encouraged to activate all key stakeholders.

After taking a step back to map the bigger picture, you can then define how each party will work with one another, what will be roles & responsibilities they will undertake throughout the journey, and under what principles.

At Suna’nın Kızları, defining a “Collective Impact Ecosystem” was pivotal in line with the Collective Impact theory. In our case, deriving from the collective impact literature, we defined five critical roles within this ecosystem:

– The initiator organization: Backbone
The strategic guide group: Steering Committee
The civil actors: Working Group Participants
The facilitators: Co-chairs
The enablers: Community Partners

We then focused on defining the relation of each stakeholder with one another and determined their roles & responsibilities regarding their collective impact journey. Seeing a clear bigger picture allowed us to align the goals and critical functions, which later shed light on the fundamental design principles when creating the overall model design.

Fig.1 An Exemplary Model Ecosystem Map

Step 3

Zoom in to design the model and experience journey

A systemic change takes time and effort because, in its essence, it is a journey. As this is an ecosystem model which consists of many moving parts, this journey in its nature cannot be set in stone and must be a living one. To create the journey, one needs to define critical stages/milestone moments along the way that is in line with the core needs, aspirations, and expectations of the parties involved. 

An experience journey may consist of elements such as:

– Phases and activities
– Key milestones
Recurring events/periods
Expected outcomes
Roles and responsibilities

To envision this journey, it is also essential to identify the expected outcomes/outputs. You can craft the journey through a list of guiding questions; What will be created at each step? How will these outputs be built upon at the next step?

As with any journey, it is essential to make sure that all stakeholders are following the common agenda and whether your expected outputs/outcomes are taking place. An iterative evaluation approach might be of help to integrate within the journey so that you can have a birds-eye-view of what is working and what is not working and make adjustments along the way.

At Suna’nın Kızları, we began by going back to basics and taking an in-depth look into the literature review of existing collective impact resources & theories as well as global benchmarks, which could inspire us to create a model that was meaningful for all stakeholders and relevant for the local context. From all of the theoretical and practical examples we came across, we mapped our initial findings on our stakeholders’ core needs and expectations. We used these findings as input to design a 6 step Working Group model journey consisting of key activities and milestones. This 6 step journey allowed us to create a one-year roadmap with clearly defined expected outcomes, an approximate timeline, and key stakeholder roles & responsibilities for each activity throughout the working group journey. In our model design, we also ideated on the measurement and evaluation approach to be implemented.

Fig 2. An exemplary experience journey

Step 4

Create the necessary tools and resources to kick-start the journey

A model, though excellent as a reference, would only stay that way if it weren’t backed up with the right tools and resources for the individuals to use. To activate the model, it is critical to creating the materials which will enable the parties involved to put the theory into practice. For this, it is possible to design manuals, extensive toolkits, or actionable worksheets based on the journey’s needs as a guide throughout the process and turn your model into one that is sustainable and scalable in the long run. One of the key guides that may be necessary to design a manual mapping of the bigger picture and fundamental roles and responsibilities of each part within the ecosystem. In addition, to ensure that the working group model is adaptable and sustainable, it is critical to equip the “facilitators” with the right tools to activate and follow the journey, such as a facilitator guideline or a toolkit. 

At Suna’nın Kızları, the facilitator role within the working groups was key in activating and moving their journey forward, we equipped them with an extensive Facilitator Toolkit containing a step-by-step guide to how a co-chair can facilitate and lead their working group, detailing their roles and responsibilities before, during, and after each key activity. Additionally, we designed a Working Group Manual showcasing in detail each step of a Working Group’s experience, providing key roles and responsibilities of Working Group members throughout their journey.

  • More than 25 NGOs and 40 civil society actors embarked on the collective impact journey 

  • 5 Working Groups formed and activated

  • A step-by-step one-year guideline document for Working Group Facilitators

  • A manual for collective impact stakeholders

Connect with us to learn more about the project.

View other stories.