Most individuals and institutions want to work alone. It comes from living in caves millions of years ago when you grabbed what you could get, didn’t compromise, and couldn’t communicate.
The challenges facing the world today will require aggressive and creative problem-solving. While no one should force collaboration, neither should we avoid what is a powerful and proven method of achieving together what separate individuals or institutions could not accomplish on their own. What better example than the United States, which has attempted to balance the unbridled energy and enthusiasm of capitalism with the moral, economic, and military validity of e pluribus unum?
For hundreds of years, science has been struggling to understand reality by separating things into their smaller parts or components. And so we have become experts and specialists on pieces of the pie. But science is now going in the other direction, putting pieces back together and identifying ways in which separate things may actually relate and be dependent upon each other. Collaboration makes for a compelling strategy as long as everyone is honest, knows why they’re seated around the table, and and sees what’s in it for them.
Partnership building represents a new and essential way of thinking and working, something Kesselman Consulting has described as Biophilanthropy. Biology, the study of living things, now acknowledges that everyone and everything is interdependent. Philanthropy would do well to try putting the pieces back together in order to solve social problems and increase the well-being of humankind.
EXAMPLE: Couldn’t a workforce development funder just as easily support job creation in the alternative energy field as in the computer or health industry? How to choose? Assuming everything’s the same but there is a large group of environmental funders waiting to make grants, wouldn’t a philanthropic partnership between workforce and environmental funders make sense? Identifying the link between jobs and ecology should encourage these two social investors to consider an enlightened but self-serving alliance. Turning the philanthropists into partners would turn environmental and workforce agencies into partners who might then share resources, identify cost-savings, and intertwine the definitions of their success.