Solving our community’s most pressing social problems requires aligning our time, efforts and resources to focus on achieving an impact. Sometimes the hardest step in collaborative work is the first one: What needs to be done so that you have the necessary information to feel confident in identifying partners and setting collective goals? We sometimes refer to this work in gardening terms. Designing and investigating a good collaborative project begins with creating a fertile ground to lay a foundation for success.
At Mission Capital, we call this Phase 0, intentionally calling out the design, investigation and planning of a strategic collaboration as a phase in a larger project. Here are some activities that will get you started in initiating a multi-partner, cross-sector collaborative project:
This may be the single most important step in any Phase 0 work. Having the right questions at the beginning is imperative for informing and framing the work ahead. Some examples of questions you might ask include:
This should be made up of key stakeholders who you trust and value. Two minds are better than one, and a full table of them can be better yet – if well curated and well used.
In the early investigation, go broad with this. Be open-minded in who you include. You may very well learn about organizations, programs or people that you never thought would align with your initiative, but in fact they end up playing a vital role in an advisory or partner capacity.
Using what you learn, create a map of existing resources, programs and collaborative activities and a list of potential partners.
I am consistently amazed at the vast amount of wisdom, experience and connection that is available if you just ask someone to have a conversation.
After you have collected your information, develop a summary of findings for presentation to your advisory committee. They likely will have ideas for additional sources of helpful information and will appreciate being brought up to speed on what is known about best practices and impactful programs.
You should be able create a project implementation plan that includes prospective partners, activities, resources and timeline that would be needed to launch a cross-sector initiative. Once that is done you are ready to move into the next phase, actually building the initiative. That’s another whole topic and likely a future post!