The incredible opportunities for #radicalcollaboration
by Priya Thachadi
I am often asked where I get the energy and the mind space to do all things I am doing. I am overly optimistic, energetic, and animated about things I am passionate about. Let’s put it down to a personality issue. And this is always the case when I talk about #radicalcollaboration.
Radical Collaboration – a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in the social impact space (with the best of intentions) but often difficult to transform into meaningful and sustained collaborations.
Even the best of people and organizations who want to work together are sometimes challenged – aligning incentives, goals and allocating time for collaborative projects ends up being tough as many of us, especially intermediaries, are trying to sustain our own activities and line up projects to meet our own missions.
There are quite a few pathways of course to do this. Some models that I have been experimenting with:
- First, to bring together a group of peers to apply for projects together through shared responsibility and budgets. Consortiums that bring different strengths together are a great way to collaborate (and attract funding), especially when we can take a multi-geography or multi-sector approach.
- Second, work with at least one other partner organization on a project you lead as a way to build comfort of working together and explore longer-term collaborations. This means not only sharing budget line items but also being ready to co-create no matter whose name is on the contract.
- Third, (the dream collab), to formally come together to launch and manage a solution, aligning incentives and goals, through an MoU or even better a Joint Venture.
I’ve not yet succeeded in being able to win a few proposals along with my peer consortiums but vow to keep trying because I believe it’s a great way to combine best practices and create progressive changes in the ecosystem.
On the second, I’ve had a bit more success and have got the opportunity to work with some of the most brilliant minds in the space. Though I am still learning to be better at both.
However, I am most excited to say, I’ve moved ahead on the third, along with my friends at xchange, a peer impact incubator here in the Philippines. We have taken the leap of faith together to set up an initiative jointly — the Impact Pioneers Network. This is a direct result of the last few years of working together on different projects, building trust and understanding fundamentally that we are strategically aligned and that the urgent need for solutions in our ecosystem can be addressed better if we come together. (More on this soon).
In 2021, I am also thrilled to be part of a few exciting opportunities that are based on #radicalcollaboration.
The first is a brilliant new initiative focused on gender – ANDE’s Gender Equality Initiative or #AGEI Action Lab. A radical collaboration bringing together leading Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs), gender lens investors, and funders to validate problems faced by women entrepreneurs across the region and co-create solutions that can be piloted and tested for potential scale. We have spent the past few months deliberating and validating key issues in the region and are moving into the creation phase.
The second is an ambitious collective of Entrepreneur Support Organizations (ESOs) in South and Southeast Asia brought together under the umbrella of #FrontierLabs Asia, a new avatar of the very empowering Scaling Frontier Innovations (SFI) from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Government of Australia. Managed by the brilliant team from Secondmuse, this group has identified key gaps in the regional ecosystem, and now will design, implement and test small but daring pilots to address issues around risk capital, impact metrics, gender lens investing, among others.
The time taken out to invest in these projects has been The reason I am hopeful about these initiatives is that they embody some of the core principles of #radicalcollaboration.
- Convening diverse voices beyond borders: These are gatherings of a wide variety of people and organizations, with different perspectives – quite a few that don’t always agree with each other as well. Add to that various geographies and nationalities but with a common purpose towards a more robust regional ecosystem.
- Strong alignment around goals: Even though the collaborators work in different geographies and areas, the common purpose is clear. Each person in the group is taking time out of their busy schedules to work together in pursuit of ambitious and important goals that will build a stronger ecosystem in our region.
- A phenomenal appetite for sharing and learning: What I love most about these gatherings is the generosity of all my peers who are open to sharing their learnings and experiences. Collaborating with the best of minds and intentions in the social impact sector, we are candid about what is working and what is not.
As we move forward on these collaborations, there is a strong sense of responsibility to build a sustainable path forward, when we should continue to collaborate on our own without the structures of external programs or specific incentives from funders to collaborate. (Not that that’s a bad thing!).
I would think there are three or four key elements that are critical for #radicalcollaboration opportunities to result in longer-term outcomes.
- Be mindful of not duplicating efforts but rather building complementary solutions.
- Be brutally honest in gauging the success of our partnerships.
- Hold ourselves accountable for the outcomes we create (whether we achieve what we set out to do or not).
- Iterate our solutions through shared experiences and learnings by bringing the best of what we each have to offer to the table.
My team and I are always interested in pushing the boundaries and are excited by the endless possibilities that lie ahead with #radicalcollaboration. Even if we fail in some of our attempts, we just have to dust ourselves off and have a go at it again. Let’s move mountains together!
(Published on LinkedIn; May 21, 2021)