Journey from competition to collaboration

The Journey from competing to collaborating isn’t easy, but it’s worth it

  • The voluntary sector is inherently competitive 
  • Building authentic partnerships takes time
  • Not all partners will experience immediate benefits
  • A strong shared vision is critical to pulling through

The nature of the voluntary, community sector is a bit of a paradox. While it conjures up images of cooperation, pulling together, and sharing, the truth is that it operates in a highly competitive environment. 

Services battle it out for funding, space, staffing, donations and even the very people they’re trying to help. There’s no denying that their intentions are virtuous – offering society-centred visions and genuinely trying to help those in need. But being siloed in a wider capitalist world, they’re limiting the good they could achieve.

Children playing

Breaking free 

Moving from a competitive culture to a truly collaborative landscape doesn’t happen in a few handshakes. Many a partnership has broken down due to a lack of nurturing, structure, vision and communication. It’s a commitment not a task to tick off.

It requires a different mindset, particularly as the short-term benefits won’t necessarily be felt by all parties. For example, one organisation may be able to signpost more service users to other members than it receives in return. However, another part of the collective might offer cultural expertise that helps improve the impact of that organisation further down the line. Although important, money shouldn’t be the only focus.

Having a shared vision

We at First 5 Lambeth have embarked on this journey from competition to collaboration. One of the keys to success is keeping our eyes on the vision. We frequently re-visit our grand plan and what it means to each organisation. Members need to see how the collaborative work is helping to realise their individual visions too.

This is a culture change. The level of trust to facilitate truly collaborative working takes time and a whole lot of patience. 

How far along in the journey are you? Here are some questions to get you started.

  • In your partnerships, where are you on the journey from competition to collaboration?
  • How do the many benefits of collaboration drive your partnerships? 
  • Have you discussed your shared vision for your partnership? How does it align with each organisations’ vision?

We’ve come up with a blueprint to help you form effective partnerships. Discover our top tips.