Development United is a new social enterprise looking to address and simplify the “collaboration” issue. Understanding who does what where, who has what where, who needs what where, and giving NGOs the space to then exchange and share. All with the aim of reducing duplication, increasing impact and offering quality of service to the end user.
I can sense the aid-workers reaching to type a response about the challenges of why it won’t work, the potential harm it could do, how social enterprise should stick to what they know, and how actually these sorts of initiatives do in some form or another exist…etc. But pause and think. It may work, it may not. But in doing something they are testing how it works, and hopefully they will learn via the process of iteratively improving what they offer. And if it works, how much better would aid delivery be?
As with the re-directing of finances, it will have its challenges, not least because there is currently limited incentive to collaborate. It half works in it’s own way, via different coordination groups, alliances and personal contacts. But it is exclusive, inconsistent and entirely dependent on either personal relationships or donor ‘encouraged’ conditions.
In a sector where being seen to be first, to be seen doing the most, and having the evidence to prove it to generate more donations, collaboration is a hindrance. Real collaborative partnerships take time, a real sharing of resources and common objectives. Both parties need to feel it has benefit to each of them.
Two issues put INGOs in difficult positions. Having promoted their connection with “local”, their capacity building and training programmes, these questions about funding and collaboration raise questions about what have they actually been doing for the last 50 years. Who are your partners? Why are they not able to stand on their own? if they are, why don’t you promote them? If you don’t have partners, why not? If you don’t collaborate, why not?