by Belinda Vernon
Whether to collaborate or compete is a difficult question for many charities. Greater competition for funding is driving charities to compete more with each other and with private organizations, but positive outcomes often require collaboration among organizations, not competition. So is there a danger that greater competition will drive charities apart and destroy the collaborative working that is so important to achieving positive outcomes for individuals?
In a recent report titled Impact networks: charities working together to improve outcomes, the authors explore the benefits and some of the challenges of collaboration amongst charities. The benefits are many: primarily stemming from working together in a timely and efficient way to provide the full range of support that yields the best outcomes for individuals. If one organization fails to do its bit, then the impact of the other organizations can be compromised. However there are many challenges to getting this right – not least the challenge of working with another organization that, in other circumstances, might be your competitor.
Understanding and applying the concept of impact networks may help charities answer this difficult question of whether to collaborate or compete. It requires a clear understanding of what your organization excels at and what other activities are needed to achieve the best possible outcomes for your beneficiaries. Competition on the other hand is usually between organizations (or activities) which do the same thing. While competition can be healthy, it should encourage charities to question whether they are best placed to provide this service or whether they should concentrate on something else. Regular competition between the same organizations could be a sign that a partnership or merger might make more sense.
Ultimately, the issue of collaboration or competition challenges the very existence of an organization – does it primarily exist for itself or does it exist for its beneficiaries. The extent to which an organization collaborates or competes could be a clue.
The complete report is available for download (free registration required).