‘Collaboration’ is the bugle call from social change leaders globally. It is understood that the scale and complexity of social problems make it imperative for broader cross-sector collaboration. While the answer stares us in the face, collaboration has been hard to adopt and execute, especially in the social sector. One would assume that people would willingly pool their time, expertise and resources to create a better world; however, successful examples of large-scale joint action in the social sector are few and far between.
At the same time, effective collaborations are commonplace in the business world. Global companies regularly partner with local players, while cross-sector organizations leverage complementary core competencies to increase the size and scale of their operations. Which brings up an interesting point: is profit a stronger glue than social good? Or does collaboration require a degree of practicality and flexibility that social change agents, driven by passion, at times fail to possess? Or is it simply that the lack of information, mediators and systems in the social sector that prevents stakeholders from joining hands?
At Dasra, we have explored various collaborative formats and have continually pushed the boundaries to see which approaches can yield results. One such example is the Dasra Giving Circle, the largest collaborative giving initiative in the world, which provides a platform for strategic givers to pool their funding to support an organization over a period of three years. To ensure this long-term collaboration is fruitful, we guide both the funders and the funded organization, hand-holding them during the process to help them make informed decisions, moderate these discussions and have strong feedback mechanisms. Having successfully closed four such circles, we have experimented with global and local individual givers, foundations and even groups of people in the same circle (up to 15 individuals have pooled funds to contribute the $18,000 per year commitment). We provide the platform for people to come together and then have the systems in place to help them work together. While individual agendas and working styles can sometimes come in the way, the key is not only in knowing ‘how’ to connect but ‘who’ to connect. With 14 years of experience in the social space, Dasra has built up knowledge of the different players and their work, motivations and vision.
Earlier this month, with the Dasra Philanthropy Week, we undertook a bold initiative to take collaboration in India to the next level. To unleash the power of collaborative action, we aimed to bring visionary leaders from business, development and government sector on a single stage to collectively find high-impact solutions for our country’s complex social problems. The efforts have met with unprecedented success:
- engaged with over 500 stakeholders across sectors and locations in high impact dialogue and action;
- having 47 of India’s leading non profits and social businesses presenting their organizational growth plans to funders and philanthropists;
- over 30 of the country’s high-impact foundations were engaged in a common dialogue about collaborative approaches;
- over 50 global impact investors were seated around the table to identify ways to unlock domestic capital for Indian social businesses;
- leading sector experts also addressed over 200 philanthropists on social issues ranging from sports as medium for development, fighting sex trafficking, corporate engagement and role of philanthropy in all these scenarios.
The $14 million alliance between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Kiawah Trust from the UK and Dasra, announced at the DPW, is a case of collaboration taking root in India. The alliance will address the healthcare needs of adolescent girls, mothers, newborns and children in India over the next five years.
With the DPW, Dasra has taken the lead in planting the seed for strategic collaborative action in India. The enthusiastic participation during the week is indicative of the growing appetite amongst social change leaders to work together. Our work in India has shown that while collaboration is hard – especially in the wake of economic volatility, socio-political uncertainty and lack of regulatory framework – it is possible, and is the only way ahead for results-driven large-scale change. The answer lies in creating a credible platform for people to connect, the systems to convert these connections into partnerships, and most importantly the ability to bring together like-minded stakeholders who have the courage, maturity and vision to align their individual agendas and share resources for a larger common purpose.
Somya Deshpande is communications manager at Dasra