Many roads to collaborative nirvana

In our last blog we talked about attitudes towards collaboration. But what does collaboration actually mean? Let’s start with a simple definition of collaboration: jointly engaging in tasks that will result in successfully achieving a shared aim. But there are a variety of approaches to collaboration that affect both what collaborators will set out to achieve together as well as what kinds of partners are brought together into the partnership. Here are a few examples of how partnerships can differ from one another

  • Single sector collaborations to focus on specific issues (Climate change: TckTckTck, 350.org. Poverty: GCAP. Hunger: the IF campaign)

  • Single sector collaborations to focus on a range of issues (Alliance 2015, Avaaz.org)

  • Multi sector (private sector, government, campaign and other organisation) to address a specific issue (Transparency: Open Government Partnership)

  • Multi sector (private sector, government, campaign and other organisation) to address a range of issues (World Economic Forum, DEVEX)

  • Private sector and government

  • Grassroots civil society (Anonymous, the Occupy Movement)

  • Gathering data on what people feel are important so as to inform professional campaigners; collaboration between civil society and professional campaigners to achieve legitimacy

 As it turns out, not all forms of collaboration are created equally. Not our words, the words of GlobeScan and SustainAbility, who add that “collaboration is most effective when parties are focused on addressing a single issue, rather than a broad set of topics” (p10).

But what about multi-sector vs. single sector collaborations? Their data seems inconclusive. On the one hand, they don’t measure private, public and third sector collaborations on a single issue. On the other hand, they measure perceptions towards the effectiveness of private, public and third sector collaboration on a broad set of issues: but there, not surprisingly (considering other data on collaborations focused on a broad set of issues) data indicates perceptions of relatively low success. The good news is that their research showed that people feel that multi-company, multi-industry collaborations on a single issue are likely to succeed.

So where does that leave us? Well, we think this data tells us two important things. Firstly, there is not enough collaboration going on between private, public and third sector organisations; the data simply is not there. Secondly, focusing on one issue is a good thing when collaborating.

What’s stopping us from making this happen?

Many roads to collaborative nirvana