The previous decade has seen a gentle uptick within the variety of funder collaboratives together with a surge within the quantity of funds flowing by them, now over $2 billion yearly. There isn’t a scarcity of webinars, books, and articles inform these of us within the philanthropic discipline that by working collectively we will be greater than the sum of our elements.
But whereas most collectives report on field-level outcomes, they hardly ever doc the realities of working collectively. On the Transparency and Accountability Initiative (TAI) we wished to know what makes collaboration between our funder members work (or not), and the way we are able to do it higher. We assessed sixteen substantive cases of collaboration between our funders over the course of 4 years, starting from joint evaluations to piloting shifts in grantmaking follow to joint investments in a selected geography or subject. However these collaboration case notes had been not a set of “biggest hits”: There was no requirement that the collaboration achieve success (and definitely not all had been!).
Components for Impactful Collaboration
In line with latest literature, we discovered that (below the suitable circumstances) collaboration could be a profit to each funders and grantees. These we interviewed discovered some sort of utility in each certainly one of our 16 collaborative efforts—be it the method, product, or each.
Drawing on the detailed case experiences, 5 components stand out as integral to the possibilities of collaborative success.
1. Clear, Aligned, and Measurable Goals
Whereas there will be completely different goals for anyone funder engaged in a collaborative effort, these outcomes must be mutually reinforcing and embrace metrics for gauging success.
It issues that the subject of collaboration is related to and aligned with what funding establishments are already excited about and dealing on. In circumstances the place issues didn’t proceed effectively, issues had been usually rooted in unclear, differing, or conflicting expectations.
Above all, goals must be made specific to all from the outset. Understanding institutional variations—and creating a plan to work by them—can velocity progress, particularly when the variety of individuals and variety of views amongst collaboration stakeholders is excessive. Specificity is your pal. When coping with broad, imprecise, or cross-cutting subjects, fastidiously set expectations and make a collective, acutely aware examination of whether or not the collaboration will add sufficient worth to be value the fee. There must be a transparent rationale for a way the collective will obtain influence past what the person funders or practitioners concerned might obtain alone.
Illustrative instance: TAI funder members shared an curiosity in harnessing information use for accountability and agreed that they wanted to raised perceive roadblocks on the native stage. TAI carried out scoping and workshops first in Nigeria after which in Colombia, the place funder members had been engaged on information use within the anti-corruption and mining sectors. Whereas all funder members had been initially concerned, not all made grant investments; finally, solely two members funded testing grants constructing on the findings of the joint scoping. The grants had been designed with a shared studying agenda, and a studying companion was contracted to each keep coherence throughout the 4 initiatives, and distill high-level learnings for funder members. The uneven funding dedication led to some frustration amongst members. And, for the reason that mixture of studying and grantmaking goals was not totally clarified in the beginning, grantees had been initially pissed off and confused concerning the goal of each the grants and the function of the training companion.
2. The Proper Folks within the Room With a Clear Mannequin for Resolution-Making and Belief
One inhibitor to success was misaligned particular person and/or institutional participant profiles. Totally different ranges of seniority, decision-making energy, and practical versus substantive data can stall momentum, as can differing inside techniques and processes. As one funder member famous, “With massive organizations, chain of command could make it troublesome to behave nimbly. [A collaboration platform] allowed us to be extra fast and versatile … which is so vital if you wish to lead.”
Give lots of thought to the mannequin or governance construction of the collaboration, primarily based on the chance at hand. Attempt to make sure that determination makers have the required authority, bandwidth, and/or data. As soon as it’s clear who’s dedicated to the collective initiative, look to strengthen the relationships between them. Belief issues: Funders see few avenues to mirror and trade info, and even fewer of these alternatives throughout which they really feel they are often totally clear and coordinate to make sure their efforts are complementary Belief in friends makes open and strong dialogue, debate, and decision-making potential.
Illustrative instance: When organizational well being and effectiveness (OE) emerged as an space of member curiosity, a working group centered broadly on OE emerged organically from this want for peer studying. The Secretariat hosted a collection of member studying calls on organizational well being, capability, and resilience, funder insurance policies and practices round exiting a discipline or grant, and holistic grantee safety. Whereas most members discovered one thing helpful within the effort, completely different institutional cultures meant not everybody had as a lot time or human sources to dedicate to the method; differing ranges of experience round OE created disparity in incentives, priorities, timelines, and finally how a lot every participant benefitted from the collaboration; and completely different organizational constructions posed a problem for clear and constant counterparts to be recognized.
3. Environment friendly and Well timed Info Sharing
There’s actual worth in proactive info sharing to spark and maintain collaboration. Visibility of latest and in-progress work is vital to ask and maintain inter-institutional collaboration. Communications on progress additionally proved helpful for funders to succeed in out to friends not but concerned and invite participation.
Within the TAI circumstances, an accessible and responsive coordination group that understands the sphere context was a key enabler for funder engagement and repeatedly cited as a essential think about shepherding success. This may be very true for collaborations involving new monetary investments.
To assist well timed info flows, insist on constant factors of contact and set up thresholds or triggers to re-visit them. Differing or inconsistent ranges of funder participation had been cited as a barrier to success. Put bluntly: Nobody desires to be the one one placing within the work (or cash). Name out a scarcity of participation early and tackle it head-on, however maintain all funders up to date even when they don’t seem to be but lively.
Illustrative instance: Enjoying a bridging function between funders and grantee companions, the TAI Secretariat produced a assessment of the Pure Useful resource Governance (NRG) funding panorama in addition to a scan of rising discipline traits and gaps. Each paperwork had been circulated forward of, and referenced throughout, a two-day gathering of each grantee companions and donors designed to foster understanding of one another’s geographical and thematic methods and priorities in assist of higher coordination. The joint sensemaking served as a “pressured reflection,” as one funder termed it, on whether or not the NRG group (funders and implementers) was adequately figuring out and responding to rising points similar to local weather change. It clarified areas for collaboration and complementarity and knowledgeable a number of subsequent shifts in funder portfolios.
4. Adapt as You Go
Because the collaboration evolves, goal, course of, and roles must be revisited and, as wanted, revised. Create suggestions loops through the collaboration and consolidate and mirror on learnings from the method in addition to the precise information and data gathered to tell implementation (and future work).
Preserve abreast of fixing funder priorities. Philanthropies will be fickle and main strategic and institutional re-organizations will doubtless be outdoors the realm of management, however disruption will be mitigated by constructing in an consciousness of upcoming institutional technique cycles and acknowledging, upfront, the changeability inherent in all funders’ planning. Furthermore, discussing implications of funder technique shifts will be ripe areas for collaboration in and of themselves. For instance, a collaborative could be a precious area for any funder to share adjustments in strategy and to navigate ensuing exits from a portfolio along with current and potential funders in the identical discipline.
Illustrative instance: TAI responded to a serious exterior shift with the onset of COVID-19 by Secretariat-convened member discussions across the shift to digital work life, challenges and responses to supporting grantees, the creation of a “COVID-19 Monitor,” and subsequent efforts to focus on particular traits and wishes throughout the growth group taking a look at longer-term traits for transparency, participation, and accountability (TPA) work and the function of civil society in pandemic restoration. TAI subsequently determined to maneuver from having mounted strategic themes (similar to tax, defending civic area and information use) to a practical construction, aligning round what members fund in frequent, how they fund, and influencing the broader funding panorama. This shift drew on insights from documented collaboration and was a recognition of the truth that basis methods do change commonly: What is a matter of shared precedence in the beginning of a collaborative technique interval, is commonly not by the top of the interval.
5. Embed Utility for Subject Companions
Whereas funding entities are the principal protagonists of collaboration, our expertise has proven the significance of contemplating and constructing in worth for grantee companions in addition to funders. Consulting with grantee companions can improve confidence in drawback definition and design of any collaboration, and companion calls for could be a direct inspiration for brand spanking new types of collaboration. As one member famous, “we as funders use our energy and sources to assist organizations and causes primarily by grantmaking however we…have an influence in our fingers that has not systematically and strategically been used.”
Grantee companions additionally appreciated info shared by way of donor collaborations. Data merchandise generated in the midst of collaborations had been among the many most appreciated outputs by funders and grantee companions alike. It may be extra environment friendly to do evaluation collectively. As one member defined, “If we wished to get comparable outcomes [without TAI] we’d need to fee much more analysis independently to have a look at traits within the discipline and scope alternatives for investments.”
An illustrative instance: TAI members experimented with utilizing their collective “voice” and convening energy to immediately advocate on points that complemented grantee companion efforts on TPA points. They developed a sign-on protocol for signing letters and collectively writing items like this op-ed to attract consideration to funding gaps. Exploring what could possibly be executed collectively utilizing the TAI “model” gave funders extra confidence to push previous their consolation zones and reinforce grantee advocacy calls for. Establishing an intentional course of by which TAI’s voice could possibly be used allowed responses to be nimbler and extra versatile, and subsequently probably extra related. In some circumstances, members had been in a position to make use of the collective TAI voice once they had been unable to make use of their particular person model. In others, members had been in a position to make use of TAI’s collective sign-on to immediate their very own organizations to signal on individually, and/or get high-level buy-in inside their very own establishments on sure subjects. Grantee companions responded positively, encouraging funders utilizing their particular person and collective affect extra usually to assist promote grantees’ personal agendas, elevating the visibility of – and hopefully extra resourcing for – their work.
Carry on Documenting!
Our case notes show the worth of investing in monitoring and documenting particular collaborations in order that our follow evolves primarily based on real-world expertise. Solely by pinpointing obstacles to and enablers of collaboration, can now we have extra confidence in learn how to design and implement future joint efforts and higher weigh a collaboration’s potential towards its alternative value.
We hope different collaboratives will observe swimsuit with extra sensible case examples and shared learnings on the nuts and bolts of fostering collective donor motion. We will develop philanthropic insights into the “how” of collaboration to tell the continued proliferation of pooled initiatives.
Learn extra tales by Michael Jarvis & Chantal Pasquarello.