Collaboration in a Nonprofit World

I grew up, like many, playing team sports.  Sports teams were my earliest introduction to the power of collaboration and have helped to define my approach to life.  I thrive in a team environment, and have developed my approach to problem solving with a trusted belief that a group catalyzed around a solution is infinitely more effective.  They’re more likely to discover and implement the best solution, and, equally importantly, less likely to repeat past missteps.


It is with this in mind that I ask, how can we leverage the power of collaboration to do life better? 


In work this often takes the form of collaborating through networks of like-minded people.  By collaborating, mission driven organizations can coalesce around shared values to take advantage of benefits like fresh ideas, cost reductions, increased efficiency and leadership capacity, all while expanding the programs and services offered.  If it is our goal to impact the largest number of people, we must look outside of our own organizations and achieve scale by pooling talent, money, and leadership across organizations to achieve our common goal.


When collaboration leads to a thriving network, it has the power to create global shifts in problems that are simply too massive or cross too many disparate sectors to warrant a single simple solution.  Recovering from a natural disaster is such a problem.  In order to create an environment that leverages all of the global support into a situation that serves the people who have been affected, this kind of thinking must be adopted.  If we are to turn tragedy into an agent for change, collaboration is key.


ParticipAid has been fortunate to work with some of the premier thinkers in this space, and I continue to be amazed and humbled by their insights.  My good friend and forward thinker David Sawyer has introduced me to the concept of Impact Networks.  He is pushing to use networks to impact some of the world’s most challenging problems with a wonderful powerhouse team at Converge (  Their team has identified several keys to building, cultivating and measuring the effectiveness of Impact Networks, and I try to keep these things in mind when evaluating my approach to collaboration:

Impact Networks:

·    Clarify Purpose

·    Convene the right people

·    Cultivate trust

·    Coordinate actions

·    Collaborate generously


A participatory and “bottom-up” approach ensures that the right people are at the table, and that they everyone can bring their “A Game” to solve to problem at hand.  


It is not always easy.  It takes time and effort to nurture these concepts and build trust among invested parties, and who has extra time?  It comes down to value.  I contend that the increased capacity, efficiency, and the joy and inspiration that comes with the community of a collaborative network more than justifies the time spent.


Working in intentional collaboration with engaged partners allows us to take on the audacious with confidence.  And so as forward-thinking individuals dedicated to improving this little blue marble we call home, I invite you to imagine how much more impact we can achieve by using our own unique views and skills to strive for a collective outcome.