It’s been interesting to see how talk about mergers, collaboration and formal partnerships have snowballed in the sector as the economic circumstances have become more straitened. And also increasing compulsion from funders and politicians to make organisations do so. One recent example was the OCS Strategic Partners funding: those who got themselves into coherent partnerships that made sense (or had even formally merged in the case of DTA & Bassac: Locality) were rewarded / successful. And those that didn’t (hello equalities groups + grassroots community organisations) weren’t.
But compelling organisations to partner and collaborate like this frames the debate around the whole topic in a negative way. To survive, work together. To spread the funding, partner up. To save jobs, merge. Which risks a) organisations not doing it; b) missing the point that it’s about more effectively achieving the mission + c) ill-conceived + rushed partnerships being created.
So here’s one clear recommendation for the sector: let’s import something from the US. The Collaboration Prize. What is it? Here’s the blurb:
The 2011 Collaboration Prize is a national award presented to nonprofit organizations that collaborate effectively to gain greater impact.
In 2011, the Collaboration Prize will award a total of $250,000 to the collaborations that best exemplify the impact that can result from working together. Each of the eight finalists will receive $12,500 and the winner will receive an additional $150,000.
The Prize is designed to identify and showcase models of collaboration among nonprofit organizations. Recognizing the impact that can be achieved from working together, the Prize shines a spotlight on collaborations among two or more nonprofit organizations that cooperate to demonstrate innovative and effective responses to challenges or opportunities.
It started in 2009, and I think it’s a brilliant, positive way of incentivising, recognising and showcasing collaboration in the sector. And it’s allowed them to start to build up what looks like an incredibly useful resource: the Non-Profit Collaboration Database. (worth adding in passing that David La Piana is my go-to guy on this stuff: always)
Come on enlightened funder / infrastructure body: let’s do it in the UK.
[NB – Disclaimer: this post was written in an uncollaborative way :0) ]