Do you ever think about how to improve the challenges our world faces when we can control so little outside of our own actions? Have you considered how the efforts you put into making a change jive (or not) with those of others? Whether you are a business owner, nonprofit executive, leader at a large company, entrepreneur or any individual trying to make a positive impact, it seems near impossible sometimes that we will be able to make a dent in our greatest challenges if we don’t do so by working together.
I’ve spent my career trying to solve problems that seem near insolvable. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a stalwart champion for effective collaboration to address these challenges given their complexity and scope. Ensuring every person on this planet has access to basic necessities, for example, like water, food, shelter and education may seem like a moonshot project, but it doesn’t have to be. Effective collaboration can truly make a difference.
It may be easy for someone like me to talk incessantly about partnership for problem solving, though, when that’s what I do every day. For others not used to working with partners to find solutions to challenges big or small, collaboration may not come naturally. I’m often asked how organizations can begin finding the right partners to work with if collaboration is a need or of interest. It’s a really important question actually. To put it simply, I often look at partnership through the lens of comparative advantage.
What is comparative advantage? Comparative advantage is a way of measuring degree of skill and strengths. For example, if one nonprofit is skilled at fundraising, and another nonprofit is able to do fundraising well, but isn’t as skilled as the first nonprofit, than the first nonprofit has the comparative advantage. This means that as the two nonprofits enter into partnership, the first nonprofit should really be the one managing fundraising, and the second should be working on a skillset where they have the comparative advantage (maybe M&E).
Comparative advantage helps you think about the types of skills that you bring to a partnership, versus where skills are needed to advance a certain mutual goal or deliverable.
Through comparative advantage, collaboration can be more structured, and thus roles, responsibilities and deliverables are easy to agree to. This makes goal delivery more effective and efficient, and helps us get out of our silos as well.
If this notion of partnership with a focus on comparative advantage, is interesting to you and yet you still are quite sure where to begin, start by thinking about what skills you bring to a partnership and what skills you still need. Helping you think through some of this is what we spend a lot of time doing at Connective Impact. We’ve also created an online set of tools to help too. Once you get started focusing on collaboration, whether using comparative advantage of your own set of tools, hopefully you will land on a solid approach to find your own set of moonshot goals to address and overcome.