In Western countries, the accepted wisdom for would-be innovators is to “think outside the box.” Many of India’s large nonprofits, however, seek to innovate within the existing system. They view government organizations at the national, state, and local levels as a powerful means to extend their reach. Often, they go out of their way to make elected officials and government bureaucrats their allies. The reason: Government agencies can supply critical funding, infrastructure, and the heft to overcome even the biggest barriers to growth.

Indeed, collaborating with any government or civil agency comes with a caveat: Every nonprofit must coldly calculate the trade-offs of partnering. Is government backing worth the glacial pace of decision-making, the tangled layers of bureaucratic guidelines and policies, and the chronic threat of corrupt officials pushing for bribes in return for their cooperation? For organizations ready to take the plunge, two approaches to working effectively with the government stand out:

  • Approach One: Map the nonprofit’s organizational structure to the government’s structure.
    • Leaders of collaborative nonprofits ensure that their organizations’ roles and functions align with the government’s roles and functions. Teams build relationships with government agencies at all levels—block, district, and state—to improve communication pathways, strengthen buy-in, and smooth program rollouts. Their logic: The more they mirror the government’s organizational design, the easier it will be to build productive partnerships.
  • Approach Two: Build an asset-light business model.
    • An asset-light model frees firms to move fast, since they carry fewer capital expenses compared to their operations, and quickly scale. Such organizations often keep their assets slim through outsourcing.

Read the full article about collaboration in the social change by Soumitra Pandey, Rohit Menezes, and Swati Ganeti at The Stanford Social Innovation Review.