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strategic alliances

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					                                     SUMMARY REPORT
                                           of the
                                        Proceedings



                                          Strategic Alliances:
                                       Seeking Common Ground
                                             June 6 and 7, 2001




                                       Organized and sponsored by:

                              The Canadian Centre for Social Entrepreneurship
                                                Enbridge
                                           Capital City Savings




                                            Report prepared by:

                                    Ineke C. Lock, Workshop Rapporteur




          Strategic alliances between 'not for profit' (NFPs) and for profit (FPs) organisations are emerging
as a valuable tool for building stronger, healthy and vital communities. A consensus is emerging that no
organisation can survive on its own in today's interconnected world. The magnitude and complexity of the
problems crying out for solutions mandates that all sectors (including government at all levels) must join
forces to meet the challenges. Neither NFPs nor FPs will survive and thrive if their visions and activities
remain within the walls of their own organisations. The key to achieving shared visions, goals and mutual
benefits through collaborative efforts is to understand the nature of such collaborations, the potential
pitfalls and the strategies that work in bringing different organisations together.

          The shifting of responsibilities in the past two decades places the imperatives for collaboration on
three levels: 1) politically, the devolution of social functions from the national to the local level and from
the public to the private sector; 2) economically, the reduction of funding from the public purse; and 3)
socially, the increasing complexity and magnitude of problems. This same shifting of responsibilities leads
to increased confusion and frustration within the different sectors.

           Forty-one participants from the FP and NFP sectors in a ratio of about 1:2, along with
representatives of the Canadian Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and facilitator Teresa Halkow, gathered
in the Stollery Centre on June 6 and 7, to explore co-operation and collaboration between the sectors. By
facilitating a dialogue between the NFP and FP sectors, the sponsors of this workshop hoped to present
insights on the determinants of effective alliances.

         The workshop consisted of a mix of discussion, exercises and educational sessions. The
framework first allowed the participants to explore the benefits and challenges of alliances. The next
section explored the attributes of NFP/FP alliances. The workshop then moved into a set of exercises,
organized around the “SPOC” approach: S) know Self; P) know Partner; O) Opportunity seek; and C)
Commit to an opportunity. The final section of the workshop briefly discussed and provided tools for
project management.

         The Dickensfield Community Partnership is an example of a well-managed project and a very
effective alliance. Through the collaborative efforts of 24 public, non-profit and private organisations, the
community moved from having the 7th highest crime rate in North Edmonton to 27 th out of 32. Two
representatives of the Partnership highlighted the following keys to the success of the program:
                A real and tangible mission and vision
                Reliability and commitment of partners
                Trust between partners
                Partners set aside their competitiveness for funding
                Co-ordination of different agencies working with the same clients led to less duplication
                   of services
                Power-based action plans
                Open to group mind-set
                Appreciation of strengths of partners and clients

The synergy created through the collaboration of different organisations with different capacities but
similar goals and client groups created a critical mass of common concern about a particular set of
problems. The Dickensfield Community Partnership may be said to operate towards the right-hand side of
a continuum, as illustrated below.

           Unequal power --------------------------------------------------- interdependence
           and resources                                                     and two-way value

          At the left-hand side, there are unequal power relations and an unequal flow of resources between
the partners. At the right hand side interdependence and the creation of two-way value between the
partners. The Dickensfield Community Partnership exhibits clear traits of interdependence and creation of
multiple values between the partners. All partners are committed and actively engaged. There is increased
understanding and trust between the partners. Informal learning occurs and resource exchanges take place
through specific activities. Importantly, all partners appreciate and value the resources and strengths each
brings to the table.

         From the discussions at the two-day workshop, it became clear that much of the work between the
NFP and FP sectors is still located towards the left of the continuum. This may be characterized as a
relationship between a charitable donor and a grateful recipient. Some strategic fit is required, but the
recipient‟s activities must fit the social objectives of the donor. There is minimal collaboration in defining
activities, goals and outcomes. Value-flow is one way and consists of a generic, usually unequal, exchange
of resources.

         Workshop participants identified numerous issues that stand in the way of successful movement
from the left side to the right side of the continuum. Both sectors cite time- and resource-constraints and a
climate of constant change as the major difficulties in establishing long-term relationships. Both struggle to
manage expectations, internally as well as externally. Both sectors feel a need for tools to "make the
business case". Participants recognised the existence of different terminologies, organisational cultures,
functionalities, motivations, liabilities and power between the sectors.

         According to the literature, only one of ten alliances is successful. If we think of alliances as
vehicles for achieving each partner‟s mission, it becomes clear that relationship-building approaches must
be adapted to the special nature of cross-sector collaborations.

         In order to move beyond the philanthropic, fundraising/check-writing stage and move towards
interdependent, two-way value relationships, workshop participants identified a number of possible
approaches.

     Holistic community-based approaches
      Rather than approach alliances on a cause-by-cause basis, an issue/outcome based approach may
      be more fruitful in forging collaborations. In such an alliance the complementary competencies
      and capabilities of each partner may be leveraged more fully. An example of this approach is the
      Success-By-Six program.

     Sector-to-sector engagement
      Conversations on a sector-to-sector basis may be more effective than an organization-to-
      organization approach. Identification of mechanisms for cross-sectoral engagement needs to be
      done.

     Intra-sectoral coalition building
      Consolidation of forces, especially in the NFP sector, would increase this sector‟s leverage to set
      terms for alliance-building. Alberta currently has 77,000 NFP organizations, 1,000 in the area of
      disabilities alone. A consolidated NFP force brings expertise and knowledge of the issues to the
      table. Such a force would be able to take a more effective role in advocacy with governments and
      the private sector.

         In the FP sector there is a need to involve small and medium-sized businesses in the community
         investment process and to invite them into partnership. A possible vehicle to facilitate this is the
         Chamber of Commerce. Large corporations also could take on a mentoring role and need to lead
         by example and influence by their actions.

     Pro-active searching
      Information about availability and suitability of partners currently is not readily available. This
      further tends to be a one-way process, where NFPs seek out FPs. If NFPs were consolidated
      around issues and outcomes, a two-way process of pro-active searching could become more
      feasible. Nonprofits and corporations both require factual information and clear expressions of
      missions, strategies, values and competencies from each other. In the absence of a
      clearinghouse/marketplace for such information, pro-active searching is essential.

     Education around “making the business case”
      Community investment and alliances between FPs and NFPs create value both for the partners in
      the alliance and for the community at large. The strategic fit between FPs and NFPs is not always
      obvious, but common ground can be found. This requires a broader definition of the value created
      by collaborating in alliances. Case studies and/or pilot projects may be helpful in identifying value
      creation.
     Tri-sector approaches
      It is generally acknowledged that society is organized around three sectors: governments, the
      private - for profit - sector, and the not for profit sector. There is a need to bring the government to
      the table and clarify its role and share responsibilities. Governments may need to play a key role in
      setting outcomes, accountabilities and establishing measures.

     Advisory Council
      Establishment of an Advisory Council may be a way to bring together key community leaders
      from all sectors and discuss strategies, the role of each sector, issues and desired outcomes.

     Involve academic sector
      The academic community can offer many resources to all sectors. For example, MBA students
      often look for case studies to carry out. A pilot project could be the basis for a study of best
      practices for alliance-building and demonstrate the creation of new and two-way value.

         Ideally, at the interdependent point on the continuum of alliance relationships, there is a „we‟
mentality instead of „us versus them‟. The partners demonstrate a set of shared values and engage in a
broad scope of activities of strategic significance. The alliance demonstrates joint benefit creation and
mutual „returns‟. There is organisational integration in execution of projects, including shared resources.
The relationship is an active learning process.

         For most participants in this workshop, reaching an interdependent, two-way relationship is still
far removed from becoming a reality. Yet, two days of dialogue brought the parties to a much deeper
understanding of the issues and of each other‟s positions. The participants expressed a desire to continue
the dialogue.

         Evaluations were conducted. A summary of the evaluations is available to workshop participants
from the Canadian Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, by contacting Sharon Pangman at
spangman@ualberta.ca

				
Richard Cataman Richard Cataman
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