Before engaging in a collective impact initiative or collaborative work, it’s important for an organization to think through its cultural readiness. Are you prepared to be a contributing member of a collaborative alliance?
Here are a few things we’ve learned about what it takes to engage in successful collective impact partnerships:
Great Reward Is Not Without Risk
To successfully collaborate, you need a culture that embraces a certain level of entrepreneurship, ambiguity, and experimentation. There’s going to be an inherent element of risk with any collective impact initiative work, but that’s what it takes to achieve great things.
“In a collective impact initiative or collaboration, transparency and vulnerability are strengths.”
Open Communication Is The Key To Success
It’s like most partnerships in life: you’ve got to talk things through in order for it to work. A culture that promotes internal dialogue and continued learning is on the right path. Being more open within one’s own organization can translate into a willingness to engage well with other collaborative partners.
Successful members of a collective impact will have leaders who are willing to break down borders and openly share information with those external to their own organization. In order to leverage the collective’s full potential, partners must also be able to recognize where their knowledge is lacking and where their capacities can be improved. In a collective impact initiative or collaboration, transparency and vulnerability are strengths.
Good Things Take Time. Great Things Take A Long Time
There may be little wins along the way, but real success takes time. In general, collaborative work takes years to achieve full impact, and it is important to realize that there will be no instant gratification. This can sometimes be hard for board members and CEOs who want to see immediate return on investment. These alliances can sometimes be 10 to 20-year initiatives, so those involved need to know that they are in it for the long haul.
You’ve Got To Roll With The Punches
These are long-term efforts, and strategies will no doubt change as the initiative takes shape and evolves. Anticipate changes and constantly scan environmental factors to ensure that the collective handles the challenges thrown at it. If you’re willing to admit that a new approach may be needed and accept that processes will change, be flexible and meet others half way, then they’re likely to do the same for you.
It Takes Everyone Onboard To Achieve Results
A collective impact initiative needs full commitment from its key decision makers. Because these initiatives are made up of many partners across a variety of sectors and take a long time to carry out, they have the potential to become messy and disorganized at times. When times get tough it can be tempting to back out, but full commitment from key stakeholders can help to see the project through to its ultimate goal. You need strong leaders with the patience and dedication to stick it out.
From an organization’s cultural perspective, the overall approach to take when entering into a collective impact initiative should be one of flexibility, cooperation, and long-term dedication. In working together, organizations need to be ready for, and welcome, culture, strategy, and business model changes. Successful alliances happen when all parties know what they are getting involved with and how far they are willing to go to achieve the common goal. So prepare, adapt, and stay the course.