Partnerships and collaboration done right, are key to harnessing the benefit of open innovation and impact. The more we collaborate and partner, the greater our chances of finding new solutions that benefit society positively. Open innovation is when an organisation doesn’t solely rely on their own internal knowledge, sources, and resources, but rather opens itself up to understand different perspectives, draw on other skills and to generate fresh innovative ideas. Open innovation has the potential for addressing our grand challenges like job creation, women empowerment, and climate change to mention but a few.
I’ve worked in the non-profit sector for close to 12 years supporting organisations raise resources for their much-needed causes in education, health, and human rights. I often dreamt during this time about the day waking up and we not having to solve a particular problem anymore, because we as society did it! We ended hunger, guaranteed quality education for all, and successfully included persons with disabilities into the workforce. I still dream of this day, and I’m hopeful that it will emerge sooner rather than later. However, in the words of Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again and expecting different results”.
Many of these organisations, when working alone, are tiny compared to the massive social concerns which they are up against. Whilst you cannot ignore the courage and vision of these organisations in taking on such mammoth tasks, sadly the reality is that alone, many of these organisations will make little dent to the causes they pour their hearts into daily.
Whilst working with many of these organisations, one of the things I’ve noticed that needs shape shifting is our language, and how this serves as a barrier to our ability to expand and solve the problems we are so passionate about. Whilst many of these organisations have their perspective on point and know the depth of problems they are trying to solve, their ability to build relationships that matter is where the difficulties lie. Partnerships are just a lip service word within many of these organisations; shaky in its intentions, hardly seen as a powerful growth strategy to be included in its organisational fabric. One of the main reasons that can be cited for this is that “most of us work in environments that encourage a sense of competition and separation, rather than collaboration and cooperation” (The SDG Partnership Guidebook, 2020).
This is what are we trying to promote at thinklink, the magic of multi-stakeholder partnerships to deliver extraordinary results towards the sustainable development goals. Here’s our 3 simple steps to start your partnership journey today:
- Think Partnerships: Yes, when I said simple, I meant it. Partnership as a word doesn’t even exist in the vocabulary of many organisations. We encourage organisations, start-ups, corporates, key relationship brokers to include the word partnerships within the culture of your organisation. Take the time to understand the meaning of partnerships, define it for yourself, think about what you need to do to become partnership ready, include it into your strategy documents and relationship meetings. This simple and effective tip will open a new way of thinking about relationships, impact, and possibilities. Try it and see how many more opportunities open for you.
- Think Shared Value: In simple, shared value is the practice of creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. One of the things I did differently when I started thinking about relationships, was to move beyond the transactional benefits that they may bring. We need to look at our relationships with fresh eyes and understand them, their organisation goals and vision, to explore how you could support these and add value. One of the exercises I enjoy doing is researching partnership prospects and before making contact, jotting down a few ways I could add value to a possible partnership. This provides a good footing before the engagement starts.
- Think Bigger: Do not limit your organisation to a set number of partners. The more aligned partners that are identified to support your business, NPO or project, the more this will enable open innovation, sharing of risks and resources for the BIG BANG impact we all want. Be brave and courageous in your business, cause, and goals, and open it up to the possibilities of working together to make it a reality. Working with multiple partners, of course comes with risks and challenges. However, through good partnership building, these can be avoided and overcome early in the partnership stages. More on this in a future blog.
So, there you go, our 3 simple steps to begin your partnership journey today! As a closing remark, remember, all the ideas, people, technology, institutions, and resources already exist within the matrix, waiting to be unlocked to support your mission, and the task is how do you engage them, and combine them in new and innovative ways. Keep thinking about partnerships, keep practicing how you might add value to them and don’t limit yourself and the scale of possibilities that exist. We hope this piece was helpful to you! We look forward to sharing more content to help you grow in your partnership journey.