Magnolia Community Initiative: A Network Approach to Population-Level Change

By Paul Brest, Debra Schifrin
2014 | Case No. SM226 | Length 32 pgs.
This 2014 case describes how the Los Angeles-based Magnolia Community Initiative (MCI) – a network of 70 government, nonprofit and for-profit organizations from multiple sectors – is trying to create population-level change for 110,000 people in a neighborhood plagued by poverty and low education levels. The case discusses the challenges for such a network and raises questions about 1) how to measure progress and outcomes and 2) what factors contribute to success or failure. The six-year-old initiative had built the large network, linked participating organizations together to better serve clients, and designed a new data-driven system for measuring progress and outcomes. However, MCI had not yet seen any improvements in population-level outcomes or intermediate-level outcomes for the neighborhood. MCI is an example of “Collective Impact,” an approach to solving social problems that involves commitment from many groups around a common agenda – with the specific features of a centralized infrastructure, a dedicated staff, a structured process, shared measurements, continuous communication and mutually reinforcing activities among all participants.

Learning Objective

The objective is for students to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks to the network approach to solving social problems. The case should also help students understand the importance of using specific progress and outcome measurements in determining whether an organization or network is succeeding. In addition, the case serves as an introduction to the theory of Collective Impact.
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