Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Does The Social Sector Collaborate Effectively Enough?”

The non-profit sector plays a significant role in our individual and collective well-being. One thought is - In order to sustain this important work and achieve greater success in outcomes, organizations are finding innovative and more intentional ways of working and working together. However others feel -There is an interest and need for organizations to collaborate, but yet organisations prefer to work in isolation often re-inventing the wheel.
Large-scale social change requires broad cross-sector coordination, yet the social sector remains focused on the isolated intervention of individual organizations. What are your views??

HelpYourNGO in its new avatar will be three years old next year. Our objective is to provide a high level of transparency in the social sector through detailed analysis of NGO financial statements thereby encouraging informed philanthropy. No other organization does this in India. So lots of scope for collaboration right? This is the social sector; profit making is not the motive, the only aim is public good. If a new skill set (financial analysis) can provide greater comfort to donors resulting in higher funds raised, this would help the sector, right?  

We thought so too. However, the reality has been different. When we reached out to existing enablers in the social sector, we were largely ignored, with a few notable exceptions – Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy, Deshpande Foundation, Sanjay Patra, Sanjay Agarwal. Common experiences included empty promises to meet or ignoring our emails. Fortunately, operating NGOs have been largely enthusiastic, despite being jaded by many organisations, which take registration fees but are unable to deliver on the commitment of attracting significant funds. 

Why is there reluctance to collaborate, we wonder? Perhaps, the social sector is run like a business. Nothing wrong in that, they need funds to sustain, but some collaboration would help the space as a whole. Is it suspicion of an unknown new entity or the need to guard their turf? Are some philanthropists driven by recognition that may get diluted if they joined hands with newcomers? I am still looking for the answer and hoping for more collaboration. 

There are too many people and too many NGOs following similar paths. Using the internet to multiply outcomes and impact is the way forward.

Pradeep Mahtani, CEO, HelpYourNGO Foundation
(HelpYourNGO’s services include validating/standardizing NGO financials to provide comfort to donors when making donation decisions; and customized CSR and volunteering solutions.)


The social sector is invested in impact and benefit to the world to increase effectiveness. Whilst collaboration is desired to achieve these goals, the social sector has not yet agreed on what it entails. With individuals and organisations beginning to share and learn together, we think about what effective collaboration looks like and how one would measure this.

Establishing a vision of collaboration in the social sector would help us all to agree on how we would like to interact, learn and support each other towards the common goal of an egalitarian and democratic society.

As individuals we currently seek opportunities to collaborate with known organisations, trusted referrals and with those who are easy to connect with face to face or virtually. This sense of security with those known to us helps to interact openly and share experiences that help each of us to grow in our knowledge, skills and attitudes that can impact the work that we do.

The diversity of India allows the social sector to focus efforts in particular contexts and programmes that target a specific sector or community. Whilst we may master growth in our own fields, how do we contribute to a cohesive social sector approach to development?

Establishing a vision by including representatives from across the social sector would help us generate a consensus on what effective collaboration looks like. This is essential in firstly identifying our effectiveness and building the roadmap towards greater collaboration.

Amisha Modi, Programmes Lead, Adhyayan
(Adhyayan is an education movement of Indian and international educationists, dedicated to improving the quality of leadership and learning in schools.)


Collaborations in the social sector can be tricky; most organisations have chosen the route to do it alone. However, there has been change that is fairly visible with organisations finding a common purpose and achieve the final result, which, in most cases has been the same.
The collaborations that normally sees are the more direct, NPOs – Corporate entities, NPOs and intermediaries and NPOs – NPOs. Corporate entities are actively working with their investees or NPO partners to develop solutions together and in doing so have developed better problem solving solutions. An integrated approach fostered by collaborating on the ideals and goals does lead to enhanced social development impact.
There are a few that I have come across through our work where NPOs running a health program and an education program have come together, a health intervention with a recreational life skills development program. The collaboration between Leap for Word and Manitham Charitable Trust, both of which are investees of the Edelgive Foundation is an example that demonstrates the same. Communities are able to benefit from these collaborations, which allow for multiple interventions aimed at a particular group that brings in an overall development of a particular community. Collaborations allow for number of local collaboration partners who understand the nuances of local geographies. 
Vijaya Balaji, CEO, Toolbox India
(Toolbox India offers pro bono consult to NGO's providing them with Coaching and expertise tailored to the requirements and the programs of each NGO.)

Collaboration is the key. Be it business or non-profits. At our Vision Foundation we focus on identifying relevant resources, collaborate with them and thereafter harness these resources for better social impact. The social sector would defeat the purpose of “social betterment” if it chooses to work in silos. Our stakeholders range from patients, surgeons, charitable hospitals, State Government departments, Law & Judiciary and Technology experts from various fields. Despite critics who thought otherwise, our collaborative model of sight restoration and life restoration worked very well. Both, direct services as well as the advocacy efforts work on a collaborative model.

A service based organisation usually rolls out benefits (for beneficiaries) and prefers to work in isolation while an NGO with a “rights based” approach collaborates and connects with every stakeholder in order to have wider reach. While working in isolation maybe easier for an organization, collaboration requires tremendous negotiation / mitigation skills, clarity of thought along with sincere zeal for dispute resolution.

Even today several non-profits choose to work in isolation. They will eventually become outdated and irrelevant to society. Their existence will be challenged by changes in life styles, technology and an evolving society. Collaboration on the other hand will enhance learning, widen horizons and expand the scope of work. Collaboration also exposes individuals and institutions to innovations in a domain which eventually help in achieving goals much sooner than projected. While non-profits do actively collaborate, much more needs to be done.

Percy Ghaswala, Founder & CEO, Ghaswala Vision Foundation
(Ghaswala Vision Foundation supports various activities related to eye care and blindness in general but the main focus of the foundation is to fight corneal blindness.)

This article is from CAP's Quarterly newsmagazine Philanthropy. To get your printed version of the magazine, write to connect@capindia.in

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