Last night a group of individuals sacrificed a warm summer’s evening and (for some) the England v Colombia game for our first Collaboration for Change event. Comprising a diverse bunch from the charity and business sectors, a few that sit between and one from local government, the aim was to lay the foundations for a new initiative that explores the systemic challenges preventing charities, businesses and local authorities working effectively together to make powerful social change happen.
It wasn’t difficult to identify some of the many challenges faced by both sides:
- Big branded businesses gravitating towards the bigger brand, more well-known, established charities meaning that smaller charities – often more innovative because of their size – don’t get a look in.
- The current culture of charities having to position themselves as ‘recipients’ or ‘beneficiaries’ and businesses occupying the more powerful position of ‘donor’ replicating unhelpful power differentials.
- Not enough scope for charities and businesses to co-create a common purpose as a working partnership due to a lack of confidence on the part of many smaller charities in asserting their expertise.
- Businesses not releasing staff for the allocated volunteering days they’re entitled to.
- Under-resourced CSR departments meeting under-resourced smaller charities resulting in ineffective working partnerships.
- Charities receiving ‘pro bono’ help that is well intentioned but often comes from a lack of experience – both professional and life experience – on the part of the corporate volunteer.
The list could easily go on.
What emerged last night was that our Collaboration for Change events – held every two months – would be less about finding solutions to the sort of problems identified above, in effect firefighting. Instead, it was felt by the group that there needed to be a greater discussion about what these problems were symptomatic of.
One participant stated the need to ask the question: What are we learning about how to solve this problem?The ‘we’ in this case being all involved: beneficiaries of the charities, the charities themselves and the businesses involved.
It is crucial that we learn our way forwards as a collective group to make systemic change happen together. We need to define what success would look like and work with each other in an equal and collaborative way to achieve that success.
In the first meeting Collaboration for Change emerged as a laboratory space, a place to experiment with a new form of a dialogue and a new language to reflect the changes that are taking place in the shared landscape of charities, businesses, local authorities and grant givers. We’re incredibly excited to take this forwards.