Radical collaboration: Do you have the mindset needed to scale with government?

“No one actor can scale and sustain a solution in isolation: to be successful is to commit to radical collaboration” The Journey To Scale with Government, Interactive Tool

In order to scale successfully and sustainably, organisations need to collaborate in new and different ways. Working in partnership with government is a critical pathway to scale for many social impact organisations, but achieving collaboration in practice often requires a shift in mindset.

Through Spring Impact’s work with VillageReach, alongside over 50 contributors, we developed the Journey to Scale with Government tool which digs deeper into the mindset that is required to work in a truly collaborative way, and in particular to centre government as a valued partner (for more detail see The Mindset Shift, Journey to Scale with Government).

Building on these perspectives, we co-developed and facilitated a series of workshops to support social impact organisations, governments and funders take practical steps towards a more collaborative partnership. We piloted the workshop with three organisations, each at various stages of their journey to scale with government, but all of whom were committed to the ultimate goal of achieving government-owned solutions which have sustained impact at scale:

Lessons for radical collaboration

Think like a collective

No one actor can scale and sustain a solution in isolation. Embracing radical collaboration requires partners to go beyond self-interests and may require working in a different way to develop partnerships that are mutually beneficial and built on trust. As one social impact organisation said: “you need to think that it’s not only your organisation that is responsible for reaching the goal you are aiming for. All partners need to work together in tandem. We need to think as a collective, and consider how our actions will impact our partners”.

One government stakeholder reinforced this in relation to funder behaviour: “if I was a funder, I would stop acting like an ‘island’ – thinking I have all the resources to address a problem. Instead, I would work collaboratively with other funders who are trying to address similar problems”.

“If I was a funder, I would stop acting like an ‘island’ – thinking I have all the resources to address a problem. Instead, I would work collaboratively with other funders who are trying to address similar problems”


Align with government from the start

An intentional approach to building government ownership from the beginning of the partnership is critical. Partners should align with the strategic priorities and expectations across all levels and agencies within government. 

Social impact organisations spoke about the shift in mindset needed within their organisation to ensure all individuals embraced this collective approach. As one participant explained: “the Ministry’s priorities and policy may go against what we are focused on. When we align our focus with the government, some may see this as mission creep but we need to convince all individuals internally how working in partnership with government is critical for the long-term sustainability of the programme”.

In order to do this, one social impact organisation highlighted: “we need to be deliberate and strategic about which internal government meetings will get us a seat at the table and understand who are the right people to get things done”.

Invest in your funder relationship

Involving funders in the conversation about the transition strategy to eventual government stewardship from the beginning is critical to ensure funding practices best support the collaborative effort. 

Organisations have experienced the challenges of project-centric, results-based funding and the difficulties this presents for working collaboratively with government. They reflect “it can be hard to justify the amount of time and energy it takes to work in a government partnership when funders aren’t on board […] if there’s no time and budget to build deep and long-term relationships, it will result in challenges later down the line.”

Government stakeholders reiterated this point: “as a government, we see a lot of work that is short-term and small-scale. Wearing the hat of a funder, I would focus on mobilising other funders around the same issue area and using existing infrastructure and networks to achieve long-term, transformational impact”.

Plan for the changing political environment

Internal restructuring or turnover from electoral cycles can hamper scaling efforts if new government representatives are not bought into the initiative or the goals of the partnership. Working with government requires continuous relationship building and systematic planning to account for these inevitable changes. 

Government stakeholders emphasised: “when government stakeholders change, non-state actors and funders should mobilise quickly and be very deliberate to onboard new government stakeholders so that partner’s priorities are aligned from the very beginning.”

Having dedicated roles and teams for partnership building is one strategy that helps organisations manage the process and overcome this challenge. 

Ultimately partnerships don’t just happen, they require hard work, systematic planning and investment. Being a good partner takes serious commitment. And if done right, the results are well worth it.

Do you want to take part in a collaborative partnership building workshop and learn the mindsets needed to embrace radical collaboration? Or are you interested in receiving bespoke consultancy support to go further on the journey to scale with government? Get in touch with Meg Armishaw, Spring Impact Consultant. 

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing part two of this blog series, providing you with tips and guidance on facilitating your own partnership-building workshop. Watch this space and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to find out.

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Spring Impact and VillageReach, in collaboration with government, funders, and social impact organisations have co-created 'The Journey to Scale with Government' tool to support government ownership of solutions.
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