2019 has already proven to be a pivotal year for the development of innovative partnerships, and we have no doubt the trend towards creative, unique and impactful partnership development will continue. As part of our Purposeful Profits through Partnership Webinar series, we launched with the year's first webinar exploring how these trends will evolve. You can download the transcript, or watch the recording here.
Before we talk about these trends, let’s quickly cover why an organization would want to partner in the first place. Let's consider some of the bigger challenges today's businesses, governments, civil society, academics, donors, and really all of us, face. Trying to conquer climate change, manage political instability, eliminate poverty, provide education for all and promote gender equity is not simple by any means. Creating goals around these issues requires serious investment and effort, and no single organization alone can solve these problems alone. Working together is paramount. Making our world a better place, whether that’s a primary goal of your organization or not, must involve partnering. These issues are just too complicated and sophisticated to address otherwise. What does that mean for this year specifically, and how can we use this year as a real stepping stone in advance of 2020, when many organizational goals come to fruition?
Let’s start with the concept of multi-dimensional partnerships. Whereas we have evolved from organizations and companies operating alone to advance their impact goals, to more of a partnership mindset, what we’ll see in 2019 is partnership frameworks that are multi-dimensional, have representation from different types of entities, and in some cases experiment with different types of partnering around a central point of similarity. Perhaps there’s a location-based issue that brings companies from different sectors together, or an issue that unconventional partners may need to address together. The more creative, and unusual, the better. Some of these partnerships will be driven by employee interests, some by customers. Much of the partnership development will be driven by either location needs (i.e. a community that is in need of support or a region where partnerships will help advance a certain social or environmental issue together) or by the issue itself (think big picture Sustainable Development Goals). These partnerships will be:
One element that impacts how partnerships are formed is funding. How and where nonprofits and other causes advance their missions, and how programs at the community level operate, are all dependent on funding. We’ve seen a shift away from typical cause-dependent philanthropy over the years, to more of a service-based model, whereby organizations must ‘sell’ their causes to funders. Corporate social responsibility is much more closely tied to business aims, and foundations are focusing more on specific issues than trying to be all and do all is also impacting this shift. Partnerships must take into account the mutual benefit of working together. How will programs be funded? Who aims to gain out of the partnership, and how can partnerships create more impact together hand in hand?
The rise of the social enterprise is making things a little more complicated as well. In some cases nonprofits and even bigger companies are competing with funding that traditionally was meant for startups as nonprofits and companies must stay relevant and innovative to show their societal impact.
Funding trends will be depending on:
One fast growing trend is the development of partnership between more mainstream brands and social enterprises. The dynamic and more nimble social enterprises, and more traditional companies, learn how to work together creatively in achieving and measuring impact. Inc. Magazine recently profiled General Mills, which purchased start-up and social enterprise EPIC Provisions, a meat- based snack company, known for processing its products in a way that is safe for the environment, and humane to animals in 2016. According to the article, one of the attractive features of the new snack company to stalwart General Mills was access to millennial customers. Despite some bumps in the road and the understandable growth pains (EPIC staying true to its original mission and General Mills adapting to some of EPIC’s practices in suit), EPIC has grown its revenues four times over, and is helping General Mills innovate and learn at the same time.
In order to find the right social enterprise, innovation partners, or idea generation, some companies have launched their own accelerator programs, or funds, hoping to tap into social entrepreneurial minds to engage on social and environmental issues in a more formidable way.
Some examples of the partnership evolution at bigger, more traditional brands include:
Next week we'll share part two of the 2019 Trends in Partnering. For more information, download the transcript or recording from January 22nd's webinar on this topic.