Social-good collaboratives are a powerful force for driving long-term social change. When organizations work together, individuals and families benefit from a wider range of support and gain access to more resources to help them overcome barriers and increase their well-being. This is not a new concept. Many social-good organizations have long histories of working together to help members in their community. What’s exciting about the present time is that advances in research and technology have made it possible to move beyond simply collaborating to building a strong social-good infrastructure that increases the capacity of participating organizations and dramatically improves outcomes for those receiving services.
The Tamarack Institute, a Canadian-based research organization in the social-good sector, recently released a report called “A Guide for Building a Sustainable and Resilient Collaboration.” Based on over 2,000 discussions over the past two decades, Tamarack’s extensive guide looks at the wide-ranging factors that build “sustainable, resilient, and impactful collaboration.” The goal of this blog is to share some of their findings and discuss best practices for building a strong social-good infrastructure in your community.
One of the three goals of Tamarack’s guide is to build resilience. The traditional definition of resilience means to withstand or recover quickly from challenges. For collaboration in the social-good sector, resilience means building a cooperative network capable of adapting and changing in real time to meet the needs of your community. A resilient collaborative approaches their mission with an eye towards staying healthy and capable for the long term.
How Do You Become Resilient?
How do you adapt and change to stay on top of your community’s needs? As part of their guide, Tamarack offers some practical advice.
Develop “Good Enough” Plans
In the words of Winston Churchill, “perfection is the enemy of progress.” Resilience requires real-time adjustments. Waiting until you have the perfect solution is a wasted opportunity. Using your skills and experience, create a plan that is good enough and then build on it. Take what you learn from your original plan and make adjustments as you learn to better serve your community.
Adapt to Change
Circumstances change. Resources change. Needs change. Adapting to change means looking at the conditions your organization or collaborative faces in the moment, and then adjusting to meet the challenge.
Be Purpose-Focused and Values-Driven
Everything you do as an organization and a collaborative should start with your purpose and your values. Establish values based on respect, trust, and equity. These values should guide what you do and how you do it. Then create a joint focus, a mission that motivates and inspires your collaborative efforts. Start by dreaming big and then take that vision and create goals that are both actionable and measurable.
Build Partner Capacity
Operational capacity means the amount of work your organization can complete with a given set of resources. When working with a variety of organizations and people, their capacity magnifies your capacity. Through intentional efforts towards joint capacity building, you can increase your collective ability to meet critical needs now and in the future.
Resilience in Action
One example of a resilient collaborative effort is Food First NL in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Food First NL works with hundreds of different organizations and individuals to provide food security to at-risk individuals. Founded in 1998, this collaborative effort has continued to adapt and shift to meet growing needs. Along with providing food, they organize advocacy, promote education, and focus on capacity building for grass roots led food security programs. Food First NL has deep, multi-sector relationships that have fostered true partnerships based on trust. Their goal is to continue expanding their network to include other organizations who will help them expand their impact.
The Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction (HRPR) is another resilient collaborative. HRPR works to address real time needs and advocate for systemic changes to address poverty in the city of Hamilton, Canada. Over 17 years, they’ve developed a reliable network of cross sector resources and a nimble approach that allows them to pivot and change. One example of this is the Hamilton Alliance for Tiny Shelters (HATS) initiative that is currently in progress. This project brings together partners from across sectors to highlight the challenges and facilitate building tiny shelters in response to the housing crisis in Hamilton.
How a Data-Driven Approach Strengthens Resiliency
Taking a data-driven approach that provides transparency between participating organizations is the ultimate tool for building trust among members of a collaborative. This approach forces you to address shortcomings directly and early in the initiative. While becoming data-driven may seem overwhelming, it will actually help improve your collaborative’s resiliency by measuring how well you are delivering on your purpose and value statements, increasing partner data capacity, and strengthening the ability of all partners to adapt to change.
Centralized Technology Infrastructure
Social-good collaboratives use a centralized infrastructure as the backbone of the initiative. Part of this infrastructure is a centralized technology platform that allows stakeholders to collect and manage information for the use of all participating organizations. Individual organizations can also use this shared information to understand their own impact. Shared technology can also create transparency for community stakeholders regarding agreed-upon metrics.
As more and more communities choose to collaborate to drive social change, we can all learn from their progress and their increased impact on those they serve. Purpose-built technology makes collaboration possible by simplifying and streamlining data collection and analysis for all partners in the collaborative.
SureImpact is committed to advancing long-term social change. Our purpose-built platform is specifically designed to provide a coordinated data collection and shared measurement infrastructure for social-good networks to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts.
The Siemer Institute oversees a collaborative network of programs across the United States for families with school-aged children at risk of homelessness. Download the Siemer Institute case study to learn how they are using a data-driven approach to providing comprehensive services that stabilize families in their homes while keeping children in school.