The recently released 'Global Philanthropy Report - Perspectives on the Global Foundation Sector' has found that an increasing number of Foundations (42%) recognise the importance of 'partnerships with other philanthropic institutions' as a key element to achieving their goals.
The research, which studied close to 80,000 foundations across 19 countries, suggests that funders have found ways to amplify the impact of their investments of both time and money, by going beyond traditional grantmaking and collaborating with others.
At ACF, we have experienced the power of collaborative efforts over the past 25 years - and also confronted the barriers to it. Whilst collaborative partnerships are recognized as an important tool to achieve impact and scale, it is important to note that such alliances can be difficult to create, manage, and sustain.
Reflecting on our experiences and learnings, a few lessons stand out:
- Establish Trust & Openness: Our first task when putting together a new partnership is to lay out the groundwork for establishing trust and a culture of openness and transparency. Whoever coined the phrase "collaboration moves at the speed of trust" was onto something. Recognising that each player in the partnership has a distinctive style of working and specific goals to achieve, we work towards finding common ground and using that as a lever to build consensus on the goals of the partnership. Whilst at times things may not work as expected, being forthright and expecting the same candour from our partners, has allowed us to take timely corrective actions.
- Map out Roles & Responsibilities: It's no secret that we have been able to accomplish much more than we ever could alone, by pooling our resources, capabilities and experience with others. By the same token, it's also taken a great effort to make these pooled resources work cohesively together, towards a greater good. Specifying roles and responsibilities for each partner, being transparent about expectations from the partnership, sharing information and establishing a governance structure for the partnership have been the secret sauce of our successful partnerships.
- Expect The Unexpected: The only real things in life are the unexpected things! A rapidly evolving business environment, like the one we find ourselves in, brings with it unforeseen challenges which can derail even the most meticulous plans. These have, on occasion, adversely affected the financial circumstances or priorities of our partners, compelling them to renege on their commitments to the partnership. At such times, being empathetic, flexible and willing to adapt, has helped us navigate this complex environment and build resilient long-term partnerships.
- Remain Open to Exchange of Ideas: Our successes have been built on the pillars of learning, networking and listening to others. Each idea shared by our partners, be it the village communities, local government or donor agencies, has expanded our understanding of the ground reality and challenged us to think 'outside the box'. Our most impactful programs and services have been born out of challenging ourselves and stretching our thinking.
- Build Relationships: At the end of the day, we've learnt that it's not the organisations, but the people in those organisations that we partner with, that counts. Our greatest efforts have been directed towards knowing and understanding our partners as people and nurturing our partnerships just as we do our relationships.