Becoming better partners for the future

By Guest contributor 30 January 2013

I’ve spent the last four months—on and off—working on our new report in partnership with NPC. As you probably know by now, the subject was ‘collaboration’, and how charities can make sensible and strategic decisions about when to collaborate, and with whom. Now that the report has been successfully launched into the world, I’ve been reflecting on what it’s been like to collaborate.

From the beginning of the project, it has been a journey of co-creation. I was full of my own experiences of collaboration to deliver services, and what helped and what didn’t; NPC were similarly able to draw on research they’d done into related topics, and pull out nuggets they hadn’t used before. I got the brilliant Impetus investment directors involved to share their opinions and stories about the charities and social enterprises we’ve worked with. And NPC dug into their bottomless database of organisations to put together a roundtable of charities and social enterprises with a great deal to say about the perils and potential of teaming up.

NPC wrote the final report, but we were involved every step of the way. If the authors were gritting their teeth by the time we submitted our tenth set of comments on the draft, they never showed it. There is always a temptation during any collaboration to feel you could have done it all yourself, and it would have been better for it! This was not true in our case. I was always glad to have NPC at our side and aware of the huge value they were adding.

One October morning, when the research was finished, we went through a storyboard process that forced us to be open-minded about the report’s narrative and conclusions—until  everyone had had their say and every scrap of information had been shared. The Impetus focus on impact and growth was firmly on the table and can be seen throughout the report. And so was NPC’s deep understanding of the sector, its sub-sectors, its strengths and weaknesses. It was a process that drew together both organisations’ charity experts and got us genuinely collaborating and putting together information that wasn’t already out there.

Our hope is to reach anyone in a charity with the ability to reach out to another organisation to do a better job together. Impetus felt there was a need for this report, and we know we did a better job by working with NPC, with the added benefits of learning more about a great organisation and making ourselves better partners for the future.

Jenny North is Director of Policy and Strategy at Impetus Trust.