22 January 2018

Happy New Year! We’ve Got a New Member Meeting Plan Thanks to You!

Happy New Year from Thread STL! We hope 2018 is off to a great start – we’re hard at work fine-tuning our program offerings for this year after we received some terrific feedback from our membership in December (you can review the results in the Thread STL December blog post).

In addition to an array of proposed learning topics to explore this year, we heard from our members that they’d like to: 1) have dedicated networking and relationship building time, 2) hear from local collaborations that excel at one or more aspects of the process of collaboration, and 3) continue learning how to strengthen the role of community voice in St. Louis’ community organizations and collaborations.

We’ll be continuing bi-monthly Member Meetings in 2018 and are adding featured speakers to our agenda. This will be an opportunity for Member Meeting attendees to hear more about the broad array of community partnerships and coalitions in the St. Louis region from the perspective of those who are leading them as well as those who are impacted by them. Featured speakers may be current Thread members or can come from outside of Thread membership. Thread’s Guiding Principles – Authentic Community Voice, Equity & Justice, Strengths & Assets, and Continuous Improvement – will guide featured speakers in what they share at Member Meetings.

To stay true to our guiding principles, we’d like to know who you’d be interested in hearing from at our member meetings this year. We created a form for you to recommend individuals or collaborations in the St. Louis region you admire and want to learn more about. This form will remain open throughout the year as new people and coalitions come to mind!

Finally, we’ve made a small change to the calendar for 2018. Our bi-monthly member meetings will move to the third Wednesday of the months we hold member meetings. Our first member meeting of the year will be Wednesday, February 21, 11:30a – 1:30p – As usual, lunch will be provided. We’re hard at work securing a speaker for the first member meeting. As soon as we have a final decision, you’ll hear from us. See you in February!

19 December 2017

“Survey Says…” – What We Heard on Our Annual Survey

The results are in! Over the last month, Thread staff has been collecting information from our members. To stay aligned with our guiding principles (community voice and continuous improvement, in particular) we want our programming to be member-driven, covering topics that are most relevant and useful for our members. We got a lot of rich information from those of you who responded (thank you!) that will help us plan to deliver programming in the coming year. Here’s what we heard…


We heard from 25 Thread STL members.

  • 52% of (13) members self-identified as “partnership staff”
  • 24% of (6) members self-identified as “partnership participants”
  • 24% of (6) members self-identified as “advocates/funders/supporters”

Those who responded to our survey represent a wide-range of organizations and partnerships in the St. Louis region:

Organizations (15):
-Brown School Evaluation Center
-Brown School of Social Work
-Community Builders Network
-East-West Gateway
-Foward Through Ferguson
-Generate Health
-Gladiator Consulting
-LUME Institute
-SLU School of Law
-Teen Pregnancy Prevention Partnership
-United Way of Greater St. Louis
-Vision for Children at Risk
Partnerships (17):
-Asset Mapping/Community Information Sharing Group (GoodMap)
-Community Engagement Action Group (CBN)
-East Side Aligned (United Way)
-Empower Missouri
-Equitable STL
-Five by Age Five
-FLOURISH STL (Generate Health)
-Project LAUNCH
-Promise Zone
-Ready by 21 (United Way)
-Regional Early Childhood Council

-St. Louis Child Abuse and Neglect Network (VCR)
-St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective (BioSTL)
-St. Louis Rescue and Restore Coalition
-Substance Abuse Prevention Networks (NCADA)
-Teen Pregnancy Prevention Partnership


We asked you, our members, to let us know the topics/issues you’re interested in exploring together in 2018 based on your priorities and goals for the year. Here’s a high-level overview of what we heard from:

Partnership Staff

  • Racial equity – how do we know if we’re advancing?
  • Regional alignment – there’s a continued need understand the landscape of partnerships in the region, who’s advancing which outcomes, and how/where there are opportunities to reduce redundancies
  • Communication – improving communication between partnerships
  • Authentic community engagement and community leadership – how do we engage our communities authentically and how do we support emerging leaders in our communities?
  • Resource sharing – how can we continue to collaborate to share resources across organizations and partnerships?
  • Assessment – opportunities to assess ourselves, organizations, and partnerships to gain more clarity on professional development needs

Partnership Participants

  • Partnership member engagement – how do we keep sustain membership and participation in partnership efforts?
  • Accountability – increasing accountability among partnership members to support one another, individually, and the partnership, generally
  • Clarifying roles – identifying the various roles and responsibilities of individual members in a partnership

Partnership Advocates/Funders/Advocates

  • Who’s doing what? – a desire to better understand who is doing what and where in partnership/coalition space in the St. Louis region
  • Educate community – how do we communicate the good work of the partnerships and coalitions we support more effectively?
  • Racial equity – need to continue to elevate this as a priority outcome for the region
  • Impact measurement – how do we measure the impact of the coalitions and partnerships we support?
  • Deliberate coordination – need to do a better job coordinating backbone supports (communication, strategy, funding, etc)


We heard a lot from the folks who participated in the survey – thanks to all who shared their thoughts! We’ll continue to digest this information throughout the year and continue to listen to your thoughts, suggestions, comments, questions, concerns, and needs. We’re here to support the success of partnerships, their leaders, participants, and advocates.

Happy holidays! We hope you enjoy some time with friends and family in the next couple weeks, and we look forward to connecting, aligning, and learning with you in 2018.

15 November 2017

The Power of Community Organizing for Collective Impact

For our previous member meeting in October and our upcoming meeting in December, we’ve been using Marshall Ganz’s “Story of Self” framework for developing a public narrative. So what exactly is a public narrative and why are we focusing on them at Thread?

The Story of Self framework fits into a Ganz’s larger theory about community organizing and collective impact movements. In a speech to the Collective Impact Forum’s spring convening in May 2017, Ganz outlined his theory behind why community organizing (read: community empowerment) is so crucial to the work of collective impact.

In short, Ganz argues there are five elements of community organizing needed for collective impact efforts to achieve the change they seek: (1) relationships, (2) public narrative, (3) strategy, (4) structure, and (5) action. Absent any of these elements, Ganz claims, collective impact movements will struggle to achieve they systematic changes they advocate for. So, how do these elements work together to drive change?

We build relationships with shared values, trust, and a commitment to working together to solve wicked problems. We do this with an acknowledgment that we can’t achieve systems change in isolation from one another and that, from time to time, we must call one another into service in support of our various missions and goals.

We call one another into service using our individual public narratives. Sharing our public narratives harnesses our emotional resources to activate courage in others and to inspire them to identify shared values and purpose. Sharing our personal stories of tragedy and triumph helps others relate with our own lived experiences and motivates them to join you in your work.

When we’ve brought our peers and supporters on board, we then develop our strategy. Strategy implicitly (sometimes explicitly) requires a discussion of power and the imbalance of power in the world. We strategize with our supporters and peers to understand our community’s inherent strengths and power in order to understand how to best enhance that power to the community’s benefit. Ganz cites the example of the Montgomery bus boycott. African Americans used the collective power of their feet/walking as a power over the bus company to force them to change their policies. Identifying this shared power, and harnessing that power collectively is integral to systems change.

When we’ve created a strategy to enhance community power we then have to create structure within which that power is harnessed. Histories of lived experience prove that collective impact and systems change efforts cannot be accomplished through the leadership of one person alone – rather, a distributed leadership model that calls on the strengths and talents of many people empowers collective impact to soldier on in the face of intense resistance that every change process inevitably faces.

Finally, the change process requires action. Ganz cautions that while strategizing and building structure are necessary we must act sooner than later. Years of strategizing and coalition building might be necessary, but they should not impede action; therefore, we must act as soon as we are able, and learn as we go. We must learn from our successes, but just as importantly we must learn from our failures. All actions provide opportunities for learning, whether successful or not. Assessing and learning from our actions necessarily leads to better outcomes and ultimately to systems change.

These elements, when combined to serve our collective impact movements, empower our communities to harness their inherent talents to overcome systematic oppression and build equity. Thread has chosen to utilize Ganz’s framework as a way to: (1) build stronger relationships between community partnerships, (2) to write our individual and collective public narratives, (3) and (4) to identify strategies and structures that empower our communities, and (5) to decide on collective action that creates a stronger, more equitable, and just St Louis.