Why Collaborations Fail

"What lies under the word, “uncollaborative”? Usually, it’s an unaddressed power imbalance." - Jon Huggett

“A few weeks ago, the board chair of a great social enterprise called me in distress. A collaboration he had nurtured was in disarray. He’d gotten a hold of an email that called the executive director and staff at his organization “uncollaborative.”

He and I tried to figure out what was going on. We talked through the history of the collaboration and ultimately spotted what we thought could be the root of the problem: a major power shift. His organization had sprung from the partner years earlier. Both were financially healthy, but the “child” was now bigger and stronger than its “parent.” And the parent was feeling threatened.

Subsequently, he invested time with the chair from the other organization to hear his concerns. Then they each went back and opened up the conversation with their respective executive directors. Ultimately, the organizations resolved their differences and set a positive, “recollaborative” course for the future.

For me, this experience exemplified the fact that power is the secret sauce of nonprofit collaborations. Great collaborations between organizations achieve more than either organization could achieve by itself. But when nonprofit collaborations don’t talk about power and address the implications of power imbalances openly, each party runs the risk of stumbling into (or contributing to) an ugly, counterproductive situation. This is true on an organizational level and a personal level, as relationships naturally grow and evolve over time. Sometimes, organizational and personal issues are one and the same. And sometimes the breakdown is irrevocable, and each party regretfully—and usually wrongly—walks away thinking the other was ultimately too uncollaborative…”

Read the full article by Jon Huggett here.

Social franchising is an idea that works with a great power imbalance, because its roles are clear. Everyone knows where they stand.

— Dan Berelowitz, Spring Impact Founder and CEO
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