Real Collaboration

shaking handsRecently, going through some archived resources on my computer, I came across one called Real Collaboration: A Guide for Grantmakers.

Funded by the Ford Foundation in the US, it was written by David La Piana way back in 2001.

I first came across it in 2004, when I shared it with Starlink readers in the June issue that year.

However, though it’s now 12 years old,  the content is still very relevant today!  Collaborating with others is a must for all organisations – whether in the nonprofit or the business sectors – if we are to succeed in today’s complex world. And building effective collaborative relationships remains a challenge for many.

We’ve touched on the issue of collaboration in previous blog posts: True Collaboration and Collaboration: In Deed.

So I thought it timely to bring Real Collaboration: A Guide for Grantmakers out of the ‘archives’ and share it with our blog readers as well. 

It is well worth reading! Though it is focused on the nonprofit sector, much of the wisdom it contains is relevant to any organisation wishing to develop ‘real’ collaboration. 

In the meantime, below is an extract that outlines seven Characteristics of Real Collaboration.  You will no doubt recognise, as we do, that many organisations are still struggling with these issues today. The bold text is my own. :)

  • Real Collaboration necessarily involves nonprofit leaders working closely together on substantial content-laden issues, not merely in an effort to raise grant money. It is inherently interactive. It may entail conflict, but it must involve engagement.
  • Real Collaboration is relationship-based; it requires that the partners get to know one another well enough to eventually develop trust. This trusting relationship includes a deep commitment to work together.
  • Real Collaboration is voluntary. Nonprofit leaders should come together because they perceive potential synergies and benefits for their constituencies, not because a funder “encouraged” them to do so, and least of all because a grant may be available.
  • Real Collaboration takes time. It cannot begin, be nurtured, and mature within the limited timeframe and highpressure environment created by most funder-sponsored Requests for Proposals.
  • Real Collaboration is painful and difficult to achieve. Most often, there will not be many happy collaborators in the early going. Conflict and stress, because they can be byproducts of engagement, are often healthy signs in a Collaborative; they are much preferable to distance and lack of engagement.
  • Real Collaboration is not dependent upon grant money. If there is a good reason to come together, nonprofit leaders will do so with or without money. Often collaborators will come together before there is even a whiff of potential grant money in the air.
  • Funders cannot create Real Collaboration. They can only help to enhance it. In most instances, a “grant for collaboration” will not seed or create a partnership where none existed before unless the motivation to create a partnership is present and strong.

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