Collective Impact in the Health Charity Sector


Diabetes Canada’s Jan Hux outlines how her organization has been able to shift from small, local programs to driving change at a much larger level via a ‘collective impact’ approach.


When I encountered the concept of collective impact in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, I realized the possibilities lay in reaching beyond our walls and engaging others

When Diabetes Canada sought to shift its focus from local in-community programs to initiatives that would drive needed changes at a population level, the prospect seemed overwhelming. How could a smallish health charity address the barriers in public policy, health system alignment, knowledge and individual resources that were preventing Canadians with diabetes from achieving optimal health outcomes? But when I encountered the concept of collective impact in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, I realized the possibilities lay in reaching beyond our walls and engaging others.


Diabetes Canada, like other non-profit organizations, is accountable to the people we serve including our donors, volunteers, board of directors, partners and sponsors. One could argue this competitive pressure may be considered a barrier to a collective impact strategy, as sharing the limelight on successful outcomes may not be as appealing when looking to attract limited funding and/or share of voice.


The health charity sector has long been faced with identifying creative solutions to complex and challenging issues. Along with assembling a cross-functional team during our business planning process, we invited participation from external stakeholders with varying professional backgrounds for points-of-view, expertise and learnings and worked together to implement this valuable participation and input into our initiatives.


When Diabetes Canada developed its nation-wide strategy to tackle the diabetes epidemic, Diabetes 3600, we recognized the need to invite many different players from across sectors to ensure we developed a plan that would be embraced and relevant to many different health-related stakeholder groups. We convened more than 115 individuals representing nearly 100 stakeholder organizations to help us garner insights and evidence that ultimately brought our recommendations to light, including targets that are categorized according to prevention, screening, treatment, and outcomes that will mean 90 per cent of Canadians will:


  • Live in an environment that reduces their risk of diabetes
  • Be aware of their diabetes status
  • Be engaged in preventing complications
  • Achieve improved health outcomes


It requires $150 million in federal funding for a task force to help coordinate and improve diabetes care across the country. In just 10 years, Diabetes 360˚ could prevent more than a million cases of type 2 diabetes and save our healthcare system and Canadian employers more than $28 billion.


Shifting to a collective impact approach acknowledges that we cannot confine ourselves to doing things on our own to ensure we get the ‘credit’. While this strategy has not yet been implemented by governments, the spotlight on the disease is shining brighter since launching our report and call for action. As such, the Standing Committee on Health studied the need for a diabetes strategy resulting in their recommendation that the Diabetes 3600 strategy be funded and implemented. In addition, other leading health organizations, such as the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association, support the strategy, as well as nearly 10,000 citizens who have signed a petition calling for government to implement this strategy.


Diabetes Canada appreciates the support of several multi-sectoral partnerships that aim to address the diabetes epidemic and the urgent need to identify solutions to prevent the rapidly rising rate of type 2 diabetes. Cities Changing Diabetes is an innovative program initiated by Novo Nordisk and it includes a diverse partnership from municipal government and community organizations working together with a common goal to end diabetes. Vancouver is the first Canadian city to join this program and is the pilot site for the newly developed Urban Diabetes Risk Assessment.


Recently, we collaborated with LMC Healthcare to the launch of the Canadian Diabetes Prevention Program, a national study funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada that will investigate the efficacy of an intensive, digital and telephonic lifestyle change program that helps Canadians who have not been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes yet, and works to reduce their risk of developing the disease.


As the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin in 2 years draws closer, we look to celebrate the legacy of Frederick Banting and his gift to the world. Diabetes Canada is fervently committed to collectively working with our partners to move the needle on the diabetes epidemic.

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