Mapping the ecosystem

Several members are participating in an innovative technology project to support greater collaboration among homeless services.

All of the members of the Capacity Collaborative work on some social problem that is so complex and multi-faceted that it defies any one agency working alone.  This results in the emergence of nonprofit "ecosystems:"  a situation where many smaller agencies are interacting in the same space, each with a somewhat different role.

These complex ecosystems can either be harnessed for effective coopeeration... or they can descend into confusion, conflict, and redundancy.  A critical factor determining which way ecosystems go is the presence of accurate information.   Leaders can best plan for cooperation if they have the capacity for understanding  who is doing what, with whom, and where.

Several Capacity Collaborative members are leading a pilot project to provide that capacity to the homeless services providers in Santa Clara County.  The ecosystem mapping project is headed by Consulting Within Reach with funding from The River Church Community, and has benefited from the input of members working in the field like InnVision and Downtown Streets Teams.  The project also represents an ongoing collaboration between the Capacity Collaborative and the County of Santa Clara.

The project will provide a web based tool that provides real time maps of agency locations, service coverages and gaps, and other key system information.  Front line staff will also enjoy an unprecendented level of ease in locating and facilitating referrals, while management can generate maps of overall referral flows in the ecosystem.

The tool is scheduled for release in the summer of 2010.  For more information, please contact us.

Read here for more on how important the concept of ecosystem mapping is for the nonprofit sector.