The Big Picture Approach to Community Impact

Every day, leaders across America launch exciting ideas to improve lives.

They bring together the smartest people in their communities to tackle the toughest problems. Armed with great intentions and unbound ambition, they .  .  .

Form partnerships.

Set goals.

Work hard.

Make progress.

Hit roadblocks.

Miss goals.

And then they wonder . . .

What can they do differently to achieve real impact?


The Big Picture

To make broad-scale change that lasts, community partnerships must address the complex and interconnected challenges that impede progress. They need to take a Big Picture Approach to community change.

A Big Picture Approach helps leaders build the infrastructure to manage change in their communities.

This approach, created by the Forum for Youth Investment and Community Systems Group, follows five field-tested steps that align with the five steps of collective impact. (The Forum is a member of FSG’s Collective Impact Forum.)

Community partnerships, collaborations, and stakeholder groups use the Big Picture Approach to identify current community work and partners, gain a clear understanding of priority issues, identify root causes, achieve consensus for needed change, and adjust interventions until desired results are achieved.

The Five Steps

Each step assures that different aspects of alignment are realized:

  • Taking Shape promotes structural alignment across levels of community action.
  • Taking Aim promotes goal alignment.
  • Taking Stock assures that community partnerships have a shared understanding of root causes and underlying conditions – a shared diagnosis.
  • Targeting Action assures that the interventions and activities pursued by multiple community actors are mutually reinforcing.
  • Tracking Progress sets the stage for shared measurement which strengthens all steps and provides a platform for assessing collective impact.


The Big Picture Approach guides leaders through the steps while adhering to these guidelines:

  • Take a whole person or whole family perspective.
  • Promote alignment with other community actors, across silos.
  • Focus on local diagnoses of root causes and on broad systems change.
  • Address immediate problems as part of an aspirational strategy for long-term well-being.

See these principles fully explained.


The Big Picture Approach works at multiple levels – from top leadership groups to neighborhood coalitions – and aligns the work across those levels by:

  • Aligning structures, goals and strategies.
  • Assuring mutually reinforcing interventions.
  • Assessing through shared measurements.

Changing the odds for young people has never been more important