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Cross-Sectoral Collaboration: It’s Complicated

30 October 2013 at 8:30 am
Lina Caneva
Multi-sector partnerships are messy but worthwhile, a gathering of Not for Profit and corporate leaders in Melbourne has been told.

Lina Caneva | 30 October 2013 at 8:30 am


Cross-Sectoral Collaboration: It’s Complicated
30 October 2013 at 8:30 am

Multi-sector partnerships are messy but worthwhile, a gathering of Not for Profit and corporate leaders in Melbourne has been told.

Social Contribution through Multi-Sector Partnerships, a panel discussion hosted by the Toyota Community Foundation, showcased active partnership projects tackling social problems. 

Speaking about his organisation’s project READLEARNSUCCEED, United Way CEO Doug Taylor was emphatic that partnerships were tough but fruitful. 

“Collaborative work is inherently messy, it’s not a linear process,” he said. 

“If you want to get something done, don’t collaborate! We’re flying the plane and building it at the same time, which doesn’t follow good practice in many ways.

“But, it’s fundamentally more sustainable and impactful.”

Additional READLEARNSUCCEED partners include book publisher Penguin, fundraising Not for Profit Rotary and philanthropic organisation Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Taylor said a multi-sectoral approach was needed to help avoid what he described as “a whole lot of disconnected, duplicating activity that doesn’t necessarily solve the complex social problems we face today”.

“In terms of actually trying to find new kinds of different resources and find new innovation, to my mind collaboration is the only way we can change that frame and get better outcomes,” he said. 

The role of partnerships in advocacy for change was also important, he added.

“I think the focus for us is around building evidence – for individuals and at a community level.”

“I challenge the assumption that government is the primary way to create change in communities. Communities can create change themselves.”

Taylor said it was necessary for governments to partner with communities in a different way, not just as contractor of other organisations to provide services.

Government, he said, needed to be there “not as the contractor, but sitting at the table with other partners and thinking about change.”

The issue of competition between partners proved thought provoking for the other partnership represented at the forum – Feed Melbourne, a project shared between The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, food distribution organisation Fare Share and Leader Newspapers.

As part of its involvement in Feed Melbourne, The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation allocates one third of designated funds to Fare Share and two thirds to other community food organisations.

Asked of his predicted reaction if another social sector organisation wanted to participate in the partnership, Fare Share CEO Marcus Godinho spoke of Fare Share’s current relationship with comparable organisation Foodbank. 

“I’d be very reluctant– its part of our financial sustainability,” he said. “But the other side is that we work hand in glove with Foodbank – they are among our closest partners.”

“You only want to into another partner if you’re going to increase the impact,” Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation CEO Catherine Brown added. 

“You can be magnanimous but you need to look after your own hat, so not totally,” she said.

Representative of Rotary, Juliet Riseley, warned it was something partners would need to prepare for.

‘It happens all the time,” she said. “People do protect their patch.”

Competitiveness could be overcome, she suggested.

“It’s a matter of that generosity and that confidence with your organisation in who you are, and knowing what your patch is,” she said.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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