Blog (2011-2014)

Currently showing posts tagged cross-collaboration

  • Partnering To Tip Systems

    Partnering To Tip Systems

    (image via Kozyndan)

    [Previously published on the Social Innovation Generation blog, the original motivation behind this post was to highlight an upcoming Partnership Brokers training in Toronto that SiG is helping to promote. However, once I started writing, I was struck by the fundamental role partnerships play in social innovation, particularly when building solutions for systemic/complex challenges. The resulting post looks at partnering through a systems lens and highlights two models that encourage cross-sector/multi-stakeholder partnerships. This post was updated on Nov 16, 2012: new training dates for the Partnership Brokers training were added at the bottom of the post]

    When developing solutions for complex systemic issues, social innovators know it is futile to operate in silos.

    “We act like systems in creating large-scale problems but we act like individuals in trying to solve them” – Eric Trist, Social Scientist and Co-Founder of the Tavistock Institute

    In a recent talk, Dan Hill of Helinski Design Lab explains that ‘wicked’ or complex problems are unclear and interdependent, with no client to take responsibility “except the entire human race”. We are very much all in this together, so what better way to take a whole-system approach and pull in wisdom from different perspectives/stakeholders than via partnerships.

    Here are two progressive models for tri-sector / multi-stakeholder partnering…

    1. Constellation model

    (image via University of Virginia)

    This model for complex organizational collaboration, developed by Toronto’s own Tonya (CSI) & Mark Surman (Mozilla), is an excellent tool for managing and collaborating across multi-organizational partnerships. The beauty of the model is that it allows multiple interested stakeholders to form a ‘working group’ of partners without having to create a separate umbrella organization. Not creating a separate entity allows the groups to 1) minimize infrastructure and administrative costs 2) avoid creating competition for their own respective organizations and 3) avoid confusing their clients/customers/user groups. It is a way to pool resources and skills, create a shared voice, coordinate strategy, jointly fundraise, and take an action focus towards a shared goal, all while preserving organizational autonomy. Thus, the model is ideal for long-term complex solution building.

    (image via CSI)

    2. Collective Impact

    Most simply, ‘Collective Impact’ can be explained as a coordinated effort by multiple parties towards a unified goal. Kania and Kramer have identified five conditions for successful collective impact: a common agenda (agreement of primary goals, common understanding of problem, shared vision for change),shared measurement systems (consistent metrics and activity reporting),mutually reinforcing activities (coordinated and different activities performed by different stakeholders), continuous communication (common vocabulary, building trust, frequent meetings that are taken seriously by executives and often guided by external facilitators), and backbone support (separate organizational support staff to coordinate, plan, and manage the initiative).

    “Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated impact of individual organizations.” – John Kania & Mark Kramer (Collective Impact, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011)

    Constellations and Collective Impact are effective methods of managing and navigating multi-stakeholder/partner collaborations. However, they require a deep commitment from partners in terms of time, energy and financial resources. While there are other nuances between the two models, what stands out is that one uses an umbrella or ‘backbone’ organization while the other avoids one. Also, both methods behave like issue-agnostic labs.

    Partnering is not new and there are a number of other useful models including funder collaboratives (ex. FCYO), public-private partnerships (also: PPP, P3, or P3), public sector/citizen partnerships (co-production), etc. For more on partnerships, check out The Partnering Initiative for excellent resources on when to partnerthe cycles and principles of partnering and the benefits & risks of partnering.

    (Note: If you really want to amp up your partnering skills, UK based Partnership Brokers Association is holding a 4-day certification training in Toronto this November on the art of building/managing partnerships.) <- if you missed it, this training will be returning to Toronto in April 2013!

    What challenges have you had with cross-sector/multi-stakeholder partnerships and how did you over come them? What possibilty to you see for these kinds of partnership models?

    - Satsuko

    Examples of the Constellation Model in practice:

    For more on the Constellation model see:

    Examples of ‘Collective Impact’ in practice:

    For more on Collective Impact see:

    Related posts: Lab Landscape [Part 1]: Mazimizing The Potential Of Innovation Labs In Canada (explores lab dynamics which are similar to those of Constellation and Collective Impact partnering models) and Innovation At The Intersect Of Art & Society (great example of how a tri-sector partnership can bring delight to citizens)

  • Social Innovation Musings

    Social Innovation Musings

    (image via pinterest)

    [Adapted for Think Thrice. Originally written for and published on the Social innovation Generation blog]

    My first three weeks at SiG have flown by. As the newest member of SiG National’s team, I’ve had to hit the ground sprinting. I joined the SiG team to help create momentum for social innovation in Canada, with a particular focus on creating (and implementing) a strategy to support the existing Lab ecosystem across the country. You may be asking: what exactly is a Lab? There are a lot of definitions floating around. In the social innovation space, a Lab is a powerful tool used to develop holistic solutions to complex social problems (particularly those problems that have become resistant to traditional solutions). To help make all of this more clear, SiG constantly updates and develops new resources viewable on the SiG National and SiG@Waterloo website.

    As a quick peak inside my brain, here are a couple of current musings around Labs and social innovation that have piqued my interest.

    Language matters. We often don’t realize small distinctions, like the difference between the word ‘prototype’ (the first iteration of many, still emergent) and ‘pilot’ (has the connotation of more permanence). The ability to translate across different cultures, industries, demographics, socio-economic backgrounds …etc. is an invaluable skill when cross-collaborating. So how can we get better at it? And, how do we get better at using our ears and mouth proportionately (2:1 ears:mouth)?

    Blurred Divides. In social entrepreneurship and social enterprise we often talk about getting to a point where there is no distinction of the ‘social’; where all entrepreneurs and enterprises have the triple bottom line in mind. What if we push this thinking further to the sectors: private, public and social? What if all three sectors embodied the strengths of the others insofar that the lines, there too, become blurred. What do we need to do now to enable and accelerate this movement?

    Face to face. It is hard to find time for in person collaboration but magic happens when everyone is in the same room (inspiration and feeding off one another’s energy). As well, stronger offline relationships build trust and confidence in one another. How can we make the most out of in person meetings and get better at enabling this magic?

    Leveling the playing field. There is a lot of buzz about the democratization of knowledge (access to education and acknowledgement of various schools of thought), innovation/funding (no longer only the loudest and the most connected startups find investors), etc. But does all of this democratization really dissolve power, seniority and/or hierarchy? Particularly in the context of Labs, how can we create safe/neutral ‘containers’ void of egos and power struggles to enable innovation to flourish?

    In the wise words of organizational scientist William Starbuck, “the best way to understand a complex system is by interfering with it”. SiG is doing just that. I look forward to exploring these and other ideas around social innovation as we push the boundaries of this movement.

    - Satsuko

    For more on the topics discussed above, check out these resources:

    • Re. Language: interesting talk by Linda Rottenberg (CEO of Endeavor Global) at the 99% Conference about how not having a word for ‘entrepreneur’ in Portuguese affected the number of startups and ventures in Brazil
    • Re. Blurred dividesTri-Sector Forum is a new platform aiming to help prepare leaders to make the transition between sectors and build solutions from multiple perspectives.
    • Re. Face to Face: great book about how to hold more effective and efficient meetings. How To Make Meetings Work! by Michael Doyle
    • Re. Leveling the playing field: great book exploring real examples from his work developing solution to complex issues, Power and Love by Adam Kahane
    Related posts: Lab Landscape [Part 1]: Maximizing The Potential Of Innovation Labs in Canada (essay on things to consider when building a lab), Two Brilliant Bits of Wisdom And One Big Question From ALIA 2012 (musings from the ALIA Conference)