Cultivating Collective Impact


Cultivating Collective Impact

“To be effective, collective impact must consider who is engaged, how they work together, and how progress happens.” In the July installment of our monthly webinar series: Bringing New Ideas and Innovation to the Field of EE, Dr. Nicole Ardoin, an assistant professor on a joint appointment with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education and Woods Institute for the Environment, speaks about the potential for cross-sector coordination to initiate large scale social change. We co-hosted this webinar with 10 of our affiliates. Click here to access a recording of her July webinar. 

Then, click here to find out more about Nicole and her work on collective impact and environmental education.


Collective Impact is a framework to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems. It is an innovative and structured approach to making collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change. Dr. Nicole Ardoin has been involved in various projects aimed at researching and evaluating collective impact initiatives. In 2011, Dr. Ardoin and a group of researchers and nonprofit partners launched the ChangeScale initiative, a collaborative partnership among diverse nonprofit, government, and community-serving organizations in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Area who, collectively, have interest in expanding the scope and impact of regional environmental education efforts. ChangeScale partners have used the collective impact framework to guide their efforts. Through this process, ChangeScale leaders and members have developed a theory of change, begun to pursue collaborative activities, and are expanding access and relevance of environmental education and literacy programs in the Bay Area. 

ChangeScale partners have developed a theory of change highlighting strategies to strengthen and build the field of environmental education. By following the principles of collective impact, ChangeScale members work together to impact in the following areas:

  • Enhancing the quality of environmental education by weaving research-based practices into program models;
  • Expanding relevance so that environmental education is available to – and influenced by – socioeconomically and culturally diverse communities;
  • Increasing engagement and participation by a wider range of sectors and stakeholders in the design and delivery of the environmental education system; and
  • Fostering collaboration, which will facilitate unity in message, vision, and standards as well as growth and scope of environmental education programs.


Nicole Ardoin is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the Graduate School of Education and the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. Professor Ardoin´s research focuses on environmental behavior as influenced by environmental learning and motivated by place-based connections. In particular, she is interested in considerations of geographic scale, which is an understudied yet crucial aspect of people-place relationships in a rapidly globalizing, urbanizing world. Professor Ardoin has current studies on the use of education, communications, and other social strategies in informal and community-based settings, including nature-based tourism programs, to engage individuals and communities in deliberate dialogue, environmental decision-making, and informed conservation behavior.

Professor Ardoin also researches the effectiveness of a range of environmental education and social science endeavors in achieving measurable and meaningful conservation results. To this end, she conducts evaluations with informal organizations including museums, zoos/aquariums, parks, and residential environmental education programs, with an emphasis on using innovative, non-traditional metrics and adaptive management approaches. She is also interested in philanthropic support of environmental education and emergent trends in the field of environmental education research.