Could Partnerships And Collaboration Save The Third Sector?

In a recent post on whether the Retail Industry Could Save Itself Using Game Theory I discussed how retailers have exhibited classic non-cooperative behaviour, which has significantly damaged their abilities to survive the credit crunch. By focusing only on individual interest and survival, their collective hyper-competitive actions have likely damaged their entire industry's market size.

The charity sector is becoming similarly nucleated by self interest in raising funding. In my previous post on Small Charities Struggling To Survive The Crunch I discussed reasons why small charities are struggling to adapt in the current climate. What I didn't go into is the fact that there is a plethora of small and mid-sized organisations out there, all competing against each other for diminishing funding, and this is only accelerating their slide towards closure.

The trouble is that the funding they are competing for tends to be governmental or Trust based, or small scale social funding for Social Enterprises. This is because their small sizes mean that they struggle to tap into large scale CSR philanthropy or investment, because their brand recognition and localised outcomes are too negligible to return any associative value back to big corporations. The top 400 UK organisations handed out nearly half a billion pounds in 2008, and small charities and social enterprises probably saw very little of it.

However there is no need for things to be this way. More than commercial industries, the social sector is perfectly placed to cooperate and collaborate to survive. Partnerships can help reduce costs and increase the scale of funding that can be accessed. More importantly however, they can create connected support networks and buffers to keep each other going through difficult periods.

As the Chair of a medium sized youth charity, I can see potential in 3 forms of Partnership that could save many small charities and social enterprises from going under over the next few years.

  1. Sharing operational costs and services
  2. Collaborating with competitors to develop better and larger scale joint-propositions
  3. Developing complementary partnerships with non-competitors to reach new audiences

I'll discuss these in more detail in my next post on the 3 Types of Partnership

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