Developing a Panoramic Perspective through Cross-Sector Communities of Practice

September 17, 2018 Danielle Holly

In the nonprofit sector, communities of practice are an established concept. These groups bring together cross-sector leaders to develop talent, improve performance, and deepen community impact. Communities of practice often include practitioners from the public, private and nonprofit sectors – all actively developing shared resources, best practices, and tools to solve some of society’s toughest challenges.

In our first post – “The Knitting Factor: Making Skills-Based Volunteering Work for Your Organization” – we introduced the concept of The Knitting Factor and highlighted three key conditions that make skilled volunteer engagements successful for corporate volunteers, nonprofit partners, and the communities they serve. The first condition is a panoramic perspective or an ability to look beyond traditional sector roles, titles, and stereotypes, as well as profit, to create real societal value.

At Common Impact, we recognize the importance of bringing nonprofit and corporate leaders together to create space for broader conversations around community impact. Our organization plays an active role by convening our own network of corporate and nonprofit partners to discuss topics such as trends in corporate pro bono and disaster relief. We also participate in communities of practice ourselves and have observed some particularly successful collaborations over the years.

We are excited to share three models of communities of practice and some of the inspiring individuals and organizations that lead them. We hope these examples will inspire your work as nonprofit leaders and perhaps encourage you to join or start your own community of practice.


Skills for Cities

A relatively recent collaboration model that Common Impact is pioneering in partnership with Impact 2030 and SVP Boston is Skills for Cities. This particular community of practice will take the shape of a day of skilled service that will engage local business volunteers and nonprofit leaders this September to tackle persistent social challenges for the city of Boston, as well as help deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. While Boston will be the first city to host this new program for cross-sector collaboration and volunteerism, the model will be scaled to support skilled service in cities around the world.  Skills for Cities is designed to help lower perceived barriers to participation in skills-based volunteerism and educate participating organizations on how to best use and engage professionals as a force for good in their communities. Large scale citywide challenges require a collaborative solution approach and the Skills for Cities model will unite the perspectives and resources of the nonprofit, business and government sector to create sustained community change.


NYC Service: NYC Corporate Service Coalition

Launched in April 2009 in response to President Barack Obama’s national call for volunteerism, NYC Service is a division of the Office of the Mayor. New York City was the first “City of Service” and since NYC Service launched, over 200 U.S. cities have joined the network. As part of their “City of Service” initiative, New York created the Corporate Service Coalition, a coalition of nonprofits and city agencies that regularly meet to share best practices and develop strategies to expand and deepen corporate volunteer and pro bono service. Common Impact has had the privilege to partner with NYC Service and the Coalition, and specifically Director of Public-Private Partnerships May Malik to deliver skills-based volunteer trainings for their cohort of nonprofit partners. These trainings equip organizations with the knowledge and best practices to make these initiatives work within their own operating environment – no matter their size.


NationSwell Council

As CEO of Common Impact, I am excited to be a part of NationSwell Council, a cross-sector community of service-minded leaders and innovators who are tackling the nation’s most critical issues. My fellow members and I share an authentic passion for service, taking action around solutions, and supporting each other as part of a shared community. I love that the spirit of service is core to the Council’s mission and that each member’s unique experience is designed to advance their work, their life and their service; expose them to new ideas, perspectives and sources of inspiration; deepen their relationships and opportunities for collaboration, and generate measurable impact. I also love that the NationSwell Council intentionally convenes socially conscious leaders from all different walks of life who would have otherwise never crossed paths. I find it a wonderful way to expose myself to fresh ideas that drive my work forward, and in the process find my “tribe.”


What other communities of practice have you encountered and what made them particularly useful to informing your perspective or work? Tell me in the comments section or tweet me at @dholly8.

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