I was involved in a meeting recently where several area organizations were sharing their current social enterprise efforts, needs, and goals. While most of the organizations knew of each other – they all work with homeless, low-income, and other populations that face life challenges – they were not as familiar with what each was doing to address these issues.
It turns out they had a lot in common and a lot in complement.
Within 30 minutes, each had identified a way to work with or help the others, suggest other resources, and, at the very least, they now understand where to turn for help or ideas as their enterprises grow.
Bringing together brain power and tapping into collective experience and capabilities can be an incredibly helpful thing to do when resources are slim. Not only does it mean that ideas and questions come out into the open, the possibility of collaboration comes up as well.
Why struggle on your own or reinvent the wheel when you could:
- Identify organizations with complementary services and discuss collaboration or coopetition opportunities?
- Benefit from and share lessons learned?
- Pool resources – labor, financial, facilities, etc. – with others?
- Create scale that enables your enterprise to have a larger impact, geographic reach, or be able to compete for larger contracts or investment funds?
So how do you create your own conversations and collaborations?
Identify what would help your organization succeed or address a challenge. Also, know what you can bring to the table. Keep in mind that sometimes the things that you can help with are not ones you’d think of immediately – be open to hearing others’ needs
Reach out. Find out if there are convening organizations – nonprofit associations, foundations, etc. – in your area that are already bringing people together to discuss social enterprise.
If not, ask around. Who else is doing work in your area or working with similar customers or issues? Call them up and meet with them individually or as a group. If you live in different parts of the country or world, Skype, Google+ Hangouts, and other social media make connection ever-more possible and affordable.
Connect with state, city, or county entities that have common goals to work with organizations such as yours. How can you work with them?
Check into partnering resources and case studies. For example, the Foundation Center’s Nonprofit Collaboration Database offers cases of how to create successful partnerships.
These are just a few of the possible benefits and ways to go about creating them. How have you connected with others working in your field of interest, with the same populations, or in similar ways?*Photo credit: The Conversation by soylentgreen23, Flikr