Strength Through Successful Collaborations
4 September 2014 at 10:58 am
Westpac Social Sector Banking’s National Marketing Manager Lali Wiratunga explores the theme of collaboration and what makes collaborations successful.
In unity there is strength, according to the moral of the fable from Aesop, “The Bundle of Sticks”. Just like Aesop’s fable the unity that arises from partnerships between "For Purpose* (Not for Profit) organisations can provide strength.
Today, helping the community you support or organisation you represent to prosper and grow may come with the expectation that you’ll be a premier collaborating partner. As an example, in the Disability Services sector, collaboration may bring about more effective and efficient delivery of programs and eliminate any unnecessary duplication of effort.
What are the key requirements to consider before collaborating with another organisation?
- Know yourself: Understand your organisation’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Recognise your partner’ strengths: Understand what each collaborating partner contributes to the design and delivery of services.
- Shared Values: A commitment to improve social, cultural and economic outcomes for the community that the organisations represent.
- Shared culture: Mutual trust, respect with openness in all activities.
- Structure: A collaborative approach to decision?making and working together recognising the interdependence between the organisations.
Once you’ve considered these key requirements, next evaluate are the partnering organisations ready.
1. Have you got a clearly defined vision?
To improve the chances of a successful outcome arising from the collaboration it is necessary to be clear about the aims and benefits of the work together and set realistic expectations. The process to setting these shared objectives may be challenging. On occasions, tensions may arise because some partners are interested in influencing the joint agenda and others may be reluctant to commit resources to it. Establishing a terms of reference for the parties to follow may provide a framework for documenting the aims and goals of the parties to the collaboration.
2. Is there an understanding of the challenges and opportunities that may flow from the collaboration between the organisations?
Collaborative commitment at all levels of the organisations can offer solutions that result in increased opportunities, personal and professional satisfaction for staff and innovation in the delivery of services between the partnering for purpose organisations. Dialogue across the organisations and at all levels, is important to trily understanding the challenges and opportunities.
3. Is there buy-in and acceptance of the need to collaborate within the management teams of each organisation?
It is essential that the management team embrace the need for collaboration and leaders must ensure that their teams understand the purpose, benefits and challenges of collaboration before they can assume that collaborative actions will be taken. For the collaborative effort to succeed leaders at all levels must feel empowered and build new partnerships.
4. Is there trust across the organisational boundaries?
Strong relationships across organisational boundaries indicate trust and confidence, which are keys to a successful collaboration. Building trust can be difficult.
A tool that can be used to share information about yourselves in order to build stronger, more trusting relationships with others is the Johari Window model. To find out more see the following article from Mind Tools.
5. Have you established governance and decision-making structures for your collaboration?
As collaboration becomes the norm in the For-Purpose sector, effective governance becomes a key ingredient of success. There is no perfect size or design for governance. However, in some organisations a two-tiered approach to governance will help balance the need for oversight with practical considerations.
In summary, collaboration is a central pillar to build stronger For Purpose organizations who are better able to deliver to the communities they support. An organization may have boundaries but these should not be barriers to collaboration.
Note: *The use of For purpose organisations or the broader "for purpose" sector used in this article is adapted from a term that Tim Costello uses for Not for Profit organisations. The author agrees with Tim Costello who suggests the Not for Profit sector should be called the "for purpose sector’ to support companies harnessing profit to solve social issues. This is a theme that Tim Costello spoke of during this year's Forum for Pupose (see http://www.3pillarsnetwork.com.au/speakers/tim-costello)
About Westpac Social Sector Banking: Westpac Social Sector Banking is committed to the For Purpose sector, with a national team of dedicated specialists and customised banking solutions to service the sector. Beyond banking, Westpac has several initiatives in place – directly helping to build capacity in social sector communities.