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December 2, 2013

Just good friends?

Executive Director’s note from Issue 6, December 2013 on for-purpose partnerships and collaborations.

Duncan Peppercorn

Everyone to whom we have spoken for this edition of the SVA Quarterly, and every one of our clients with whom I have discussed this, agrees that the closer we work together; the more we share what works; the more we look for opportunities to collaborate; the better the outcomes will be for Australian society. Successful and respected organisations like The Smith Family, Beacon and the Macquarie Group Foundation all highlight the upside in this edition. The only possible dissenting voice is the innovative entrepreneur who wishes to get new approaches and new ideas up and running.

But there is much less agreement on the mechanism for collaborating. The Collective Impact framework neatly summarises the characteristics of an effective collaboration, and others have also observed that clear and agreed objectives, and some form of ‘backbone’ are critical. But is the ‘real issue’ simply that there are too many players? Is inefficiency through underutilised, duplicated resources a huge problem? To be honest, my sense from the work that we have done is that the major driver of tighter collaboration (and even merger) will eventually be better outcomes achieved for those we seek to support, and not reducing costs.

Right at the moment we are working with six organisations on three projects where we want to establish tighter links and stronger collaboration. What has excited me is that the critical step in the process is having the executives of both organisations sit down and figure out how they can support each other: ultimately it is people who need to work with people (rather than ‘organisations’ with each other). It’s not always straightforward – clear agendas and thoughtful facilitation help, as we have observed in our work in Queensland – but analysis can only identify the opportunity, it cannot deliver it.

In this issue we also touch on the business of social change, returning to social enterprise and, specifically, ADEs. Years of commercial consulting have left me with a fondness for financial analysis that my colleagues are perhaps somewhat wary of! But running a social enterprise requires business skills, and business acumen, as we have said before. Our article highlights specific tools to assist.

Duncan Peppercorn
Duncan Peppercorn
(Former) Executive Director SVA Consulting

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