What Does a Collaborative Society Look Like?

By Dave Prescott, The Partnering Initiative

What Does a Collaborative Society Look Like?

As part of the roadmap for systematically engaging business as a partner in development, we would like to set out a vision for a collaborative society that is so compelling that it acts as an inexorable draw for organisations to aspire to. There is value in taking a step back from the nuts and bolts of partnership and reminding ourselves what it is that we are trying to achieve over the long term.

We envisage a collaborative society as one where a culture of partnership has been internalised to the extent that it is woven into the social fabric. Interdependence has become mainstreamed. There is general understanding of the situations and contexts where partnerships are likely to be effective.

For example, partnerships are more likely to succeed where the subject is of strategic importance, such as energy, water and agriculture. These are issues where the investment of public money and resources are more likely to have an impact, as well as directly impacting a company’s core business. The decision process required to identify where a partnership’s time, money and effort should best be directed is well understood – just as, conventionally, companies are able to assess and pursue the markets where they are most likely to make a return on their investment.

In a collaborative society, the impacts of partnership are the focus of public debate and discussion, and there are tight feedback loops between the recipients of development (or their representatives) and the suppliers of solutions.

The collaborative society is one where governments, donors, businesses and civil society organisations have transcended and included their traditional roles. For example in addition to their core role of:

  • funding development programmes, donors are also facilitators of collaboration between business and government; expert impact assessors; .
  • selling products and services, businesses are also consciously and proactively regarding local development needs as potential business solutions
  • providing public services and upholding the rule of law, governments are actively seeking engagement in their country’s development from other actors that share their strategic objectives.
  • building local capacity, holding organisations to account and providing technical assistance and support, civil society organisations are playing a major role in building and strengthening local networks for development

The result of this new cultural landscape is a major leap forward in development impacts. In its ‘Architects of a better world’ report, describing the business role in the post-2015 development agenda, the Global Compact highlighted a series of ‘sustainable development goals’ (inclusive growth; social equity and progress; and environmental protection) and ‘long-term business goals’ (revenue growth; resource productivity; and risk management). In a collaborative society, the overlap between these two sets of goals is simply common sense.

What do you think of this vision? What would make it more compelling? What kind of collaborative society would you subscribe to?


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Editor’s Note:

This blog is part of a series co-hosted by The Partnering Initiative. Join the online discussion here.

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2 Responses

  1. Hola David,

    Always exciting to read about collaborative work and engaging the private sector in development (here comes the “BUT:) – how do you create collaborative efforts without having first the ability to see the big picture. Is it possible to have one common goal and have everyone participate. In 1958 a group of religious groups came together in Europe and made the first lobby efforts to have OECD countries commit to Official Development Assistance (ODA) – it took three years get to an accord (1961) — 50+ years later and a suite of HLF they are still arguing at what should be counted. From administrations fees, to loans, student exchanges, refugee cost…..the list goes on about the “disputed items: – After 50+ years, they only recently decided to be transparent about what is being funded (and boy…there are lot of work to do there).

    By the way…I am an advocate of collective efforts! If a country like Colombia can hardly manage 26 donors – how could they effectively speak with and strategically inform 10,000 donors with small projects? How do you measure these efforts?

    As you know ODA commitment have been decreasing regularly and the situation always gets worst during a financial crisis. Sometime “development” is not an overnight solution …it takes years of human and financial commitment ….and also it needs to address a multitude of factors that are intertwined but so disconnected in real life.  The Private sector is not immune to a financial crisis….look at the US situation …government all over the world had to bail out banks, investment firms, car companies, and much more….how do you address needs when businesses are also affected by financial crisis!?

    We are doing a few projects in Latin America…to help address hyper-individual efforts. We are going to Brazil in a few weeks to compete to showcase one project in cancer care for vulnerable populations…it’s phenomenal the issues that need investment…not so much cancer care or detection …or doctors,,,or money,, it could be as simple as helping the woman get a ride from the hospital back home after chemotherapy,..or navigation in the system.

    At least the discussion has started — just to put things in context — the 2005 Paris Declaration on ODA is still barely implemented…with 26 donors. Hope that the proposed collective efforts will start with the right vision and tools to deal with what is ahead of us…I imagine you are based in the UK with TPI — I believe it;s next week that the NGO community is getting together to celebrate failure…maybe a good event to attend. I still don’t get the need to celebrate failure…mostly when it’s from public funds!


  2. Something which may interest you, happening on May, 6 at the London School of Economics. 

    Register here bit.ly/cfit14  C-FIT Partnership Forum 2014 for small charities and companies #CFIT2014.

    I really hope you can join us! 



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