By Joanne Sonenshine, Founder + CEO of Connective Impact
Last week I was lucky enough to attend the 12th annual Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference in San Francisco California. Overlooking the beautiful blue bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, I spent three days learning from, talking to and being inspired by social entrepreneurs, impact investors, funders of all kinds, technical experts in a number of different issue areas, NGOs, and so many others who came together to think through tough questions and begin developing collaborative solutions to some of the worlds biggest challenges.
I was a first timer, among hundreds of others who had heard about the powerhouses that attend this conference each year, knowing not what to expect. Truthfully I thought the conference may be attended mostly by braggadocious investor types simply looking to make a buck off of budding entrepreneurs who claim to be doing “good” at the same time.
Wow was I wrong!
The reality of SOCAP was completely the opposite of any preconceived notions that this was simply a boondoggle for venture capitalists. I can’t recall a conference more full of intellectuals, idea generators, creative provocateurs or problem solvers. I prepared for SOCAP with many questions. I left with some answers, and many examples of amazing work that independently could be world changing, and yet collectively, with all other ideas permeating through the conference, could be paradigm shifting.
What questions did I have to begin with?
What did I learn?
I could have attended every session offered at SOCAP and still not have taken advantage of all the knowledge and creativity that was clearly abundant among the 3000+ attendees. I barely made it to the sessions I had planned to attend, and even then, spent much of the sessions among the standing room only crowds trying to absorb what they could. Some sessions were high level and barely scratched the surface of what organizations are doing, and others had more granular approaches. Examples of the dynamic ideas I heard about included:
There were also several big funding announcements* this week including:
I can't wait to attend SOCAP20 (!) and am jazzed to spend the next few weeks following up with the incredibly smart and mission-driven new friends I met at SOCAP19. I have no doubt that world changing action is ahead.
Joanne Sonenshine Is Founder + CEO of Connective Impact, a partnership advisory firm providing structure and methods to mission-driven, socially and environmentally-conscious companies to aid in effective collaboration for lasting impact.
*want to follow these initiatives as they develop? Be part of our funding + partnerships opportunities community.
By Stefanie Kruglik
After working with public-private partnerships for over a decade, I’ve noticed one essential ingredient in those that do well: a framework. A framework creates holistic solutions, builds trust among the partners, and makes implementation easy to navigate – ultimately making the partnership more effective.
Yet when I speak about frameworks, I often see dread in my counterparts’ eyes. “Don’t worry,” I tell them – developing a framework doesn’t have to be a huge burden, and it will save you time down the road. A robust framework also helps you develop your key performance indicators (KPIs); more on that later.
Think about a long drive with a new friend. What are you trying to achieve – do you just want to get there ASAP? See the fall foliage? Sample the local cuisine? Discussing these questions in advance will inform your route selection, pace, and choice of diners (it isn’t a real road trip without a diner stop!)
Just like on your road trip, when you establish a framework with accompanying KPIs, and review them regularly, you will be able to avoid roadblocks and stay on track to reach your goals.
It’s easy to get started. Answer these key questions that too many partnerships skip, and your framework will begin to take shape:
Stefanie Kruglik Is Senior Director for Impact + Strategy at Connective Impact. Learn more about our partnership evaluation tool and see how your partnerships shape up!
You know that partnerships matter for your business, and to address critical challenges that can help you deliver on impact. Yet how do you find potential partners, determine which types of partnerships are best for your business, which are best to advance your high-impact goals, and how to position your company for growth?
Partners help us address gaps that may exist, and ensure our businesses are working within our strengths. Partnerships that are designed right, built around the concept of comparative advantage, and that offer mutual benefit, will keep resources at a minimum and help ensure greater efficiency in your efforts. The concept of partnership building can seem overwhelming when there are so many potential partners out there. Where does one start? How do you know which are the best partners for your organization? Which partnerships will advance your impact and propel the success of your efforts?
Let's examine the three most important partnership types.
1. Service Delivery
Once you have determined what your organizational priorities are, and what impact you want to make as a business or nonprofit, identifying the most effective service delivery partners is crucial. These types of partners can range from customers to suppliers, employers to in-country project leads. Partner organizations or individuals that keep your programs moving, budgets in line, follow programmatic timelines and help deliver on prioritized goals or program objectives are service delivery partners. These partners should have a mutual benefit in helping you stay accountable, as their own organization or individual goals will be improved in doing so (at least in an ideal partnership). If you are an international nonprofit, your service delivery partners are often local nonprofits that help liaise with local governments or communities. If you are a company, service delivery partners are often suppliers, factory managers or those who you rely upon for following your company plans.
Your organization has a story. Your partners do too. Joining together to capture insights and ensure others understand the impact you are making helps ensure your story is cohesive and targeted to those who need to hear it. Being held accountable to the facts, being transparent and honest about the work you are doing is truthfully one of the most important elements in delivering true impact, so partners that encourage that honesty are among the most critical.
In order to advance your business aim, as well as your high impact goals, you will need the resources. For example, if your goal is to donate $10,000 a year to a local hospital, and you don't have the funds to do so, you will need to tap into your network or be creative working with suppliers or customers to raise that money. Finding ways to dedicate resources to causes that you and your colleagues care about can seem intensive. You don't want to go down a rabbit hole trying to achieve your high-impact goals, because that's just too expensive. Finding the right types of funding partners can save you time and ensure you have the resources you need to acheive your goals.
Brainstorm all of the partners that you have engaged with in the past, and that you can potentially engage with in the future. Think about which partners can benefit your potential impact from a service delivery, marketing/story-telling or fundraising perspective before narrowing in on which are the most suitable for your organization. Discuss with colleagues and determine which types of partnerships ignite excitement. Those are the types of partnerships to pursue. Ask prospective partners to share ideas, examples and existing project cases, but be prepared to do the same. Go one step further and share some ideas you may have for your impact goal. Be willing to give a little and offer up some creative Intel or information that will encourage the partner to engage with you and share resources, ideas, networks, and most valuably, their time. Don't forget that this is your chance to work on identifying your comparative advantage in order to engage partners for the benefit of your impact goal, the growth of your business, and to ensure mutual benefit for them too.
Wondering where to begin with your partnership journey? Reach out to discuss.
Some tools that may help:
Partnership Evaluation Tool
Fundraising Made Simple
20 Ways to Find New Partners and Amplify Your Impact
As we approach the final few months of 2019, many of these institutions are re-evaluating their goals, recognizing that while change has occurred, we are still on a path towards the true seismic shift we all expected. We are running out of time, though. 2020 is just around the corner and there is still quite a lot of work to be done.
In 2015, the United Nations created the Sustainable Development Goals, (“SDGs”), a set of 17 critical priorities that businesses, governments and civil society must work around together to create a healthy, resilient and thriving planet for all people, nature and animal life that live here. The release of the SDGs gave these actors an opportunity to reframe their 2020 goals, and look towards 2030, the year the SDGs are targeting for their finish line. As 2020 approaches, 2030 becomes the new beacon for many of the same goals that were set back in 2000.
Has your business examined the SDGs? Have you considered what role you play?
We cannot deny, nor should we, that businesses need to make money as a first priority. At the end of the day, businesses exist to provide customers with goods and services. That said, businesses of all sizes have a role to play in society, too. The SDGs allow businesses a roadmap, of sorts, or even a menu of options to consider, as they evaluate this role. To play even a small part in advancing the SDGs, businesses will need to prioritize what's possible. It won't be easy to land on a solution for no poverty, or clean water and sanitation for all, or zero hunger in isolation. Collaboration will be essential. Now is the time to take a look within, however, to consider what role your business does play, and how your goals can align with the SDGs.
So where does one begin?
Working through these steps should give you a good sense of what elements within the SDGs are feasible for your company to commit or contribute to. It will take all of us working together to address the SDGs. Change is possible if we focus and act with intention. Let's make the next ten years count.