“You will collaborate…..” Clarity CICs March blog considers why social purpose organisations should collaborate

Each month we publish incisive and thought-provoking blogs by Sarah Taragon and Steve Woollett of Clarity CIC and Emma Beeston of the Emma Beeston Consultancy.

Today’s blog is written by Steve Woollett and is entitled:

You will collaborate ….

“There seems to be plenty of rhetoric around the importance of collaboration in the social purpose sector. Most people think it’s a “good thing” and many organisations will have collaboration, co-operation, openness and partnership written into their mission and values.

The reality, of course, is not so straightforward. Collaborating with other organisations probably means some loss of independence and control. It can involve working with groups you have previously regarded as competitors; the demand for often scarce funding and competitive contracting processes all fuel a competitive rather than collaborative culture.

I hope that organisations thinking about or actively pursuing collaboration with others, have ‘making life better for their clients and users’ as their overarching goal. In fact, how to improve outcomes for beneficiaries should surely be the central starting point for thinking about collaboration. Yes, collaboration might be seen as a way of becoming more efficient, improving and expanding services, reducing costs and becoming more resilient and sustainable. But ultimately the bottom line should be ‘how will it help the people and communities we seek to serve’.

However, it does seem as if difficult personal and organisational relationships, entrenched views, a determination to remain totally independent, politics (in all its forms) and an inability to put behind you what has happened in the past, all get in the way. And sometimes sorting out the detail of governance, partnership agreements, due diligence, employment contracts and so on –obscure and divert attention from the ultimate prize.

As independent consultants it’s often fairly easy for us to see the bigger picture and cut through the stuff that is making collaboration difficult. But, to be honest you shouldn’t have to engage consultants to do this job. Just keep reminding yourself, your team, your trustees and the people you are seeking to work with, to keep firmly focussed on how beneficiaries will benefit.”

Clarity CIC enables social purpose organisations, including community groups, charities and social enterprises to be effective, sustainable and well-run. It helps organisations solve everyday problems, build their own capability, think and act strategically and demonstrate the value of their work.