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Jan 25

Play Well With Others -10 Commandments for Social Entrepreneurship

So at this point you should have developed a strategy that hits at the root causes of your social problem and it is time to start putting the pieces into action. Entrepreneurship is a team sport and success is more likely if you seek out partners that can assist you in reaching your goals. So this week’s commandment is

Thou Shall Play Well With Others

If you have created a non-profit organization that will rely on traditional philanthropy models, you will need to seek out funding from a variety of sources. However, funding within the social sector is very limited and most funders will want to see how you plan to partner with others to reach your goals. So unless you are a millionaire or independently wealthy, you probably will need to look at ways that you can develop partnerships that assist your organization in meeting your goals. As a new organization this can provide you with a variety of benefits.

If you are hoping to develop a national initiative or expand outside your hometown, partners can provide insight and access. Rather than creating a strategy that requires you to create an organization that serves the entire country or globe, you should look for partners already on the ground in places you want to work that could add your idea within their existing organizational structure. For these organizations, it might allow them to access a new funding stream or increase their effectiveness. If your idea is an entirely new innovation, it can also help people with similar goals to truly create sustainable impact. Your partnership could change the way that the social problem you are focusing on is addressed and eventually lead to significant decreases. It provides with you with existing structures for your back office that can be costly in the start-up phase.

As the new kid on the block, you will need to gain credibility before funders will risk funding your organization. By partnering with other organizations you can take advantage of their experience to open doors with funders. It also shows that you are working with a collaborative rather than competitive focus. Efforts working towards the social good should not create competition for resources, fame or power. The goals and focus should always be on impact and outcomes. Partnership allows you to stay on top of the best practices in your sector and better meet needs.

But not every organization will play nicely. Some will be like any other bully that torments the cute new kid. They are scared that you will replace them in popularity and prestige and so they will make your life miserable. Most times these organizations are not evil just trying to stay afloat. The overall sector has created this atmosphere of competition between organizations by rewarding new ideas and underfunding strong programs. When a new program comes in, the influx of money that they receive usually means that an existing program will receive less money. Very seldom are new funding areas created and so programs that have been working for a long time on an issue are forced to constantly think of new ideas or create new partnerships in order to meet their financial needs. This would not necessarily be the case if funding focused more on long-term strategies and outcomes instead of the new shiny ball but hopefully that will change.

For now, this creates a great possibility for partnership with existing organizations that need new ideas in order to access new funding. Finding a partner organization that has an entrepreneurial culture, innovative nature, or resources that would aid in your efforts, will make the success of you venture more likely.

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