July 2020 Social Impact Roundup: Cross-Sector Social Impact Partnerships Are Gaining in Popularity and Effectiveness

Mark Horoszowski

Mark Horoszowski is the co-founder and CEO of MovingWorlds.org.

Want to make kids experiencing poverty happier? There’s a charity for that. Train monkeys to help people experiencing blindness? There’s a charity. Clean water in Flint Michigan? There’s a charity for that, too. In fact, there are over 1.2 Million charities working across the globe.

According to one talk this author remembers, “according to the impact that nonprofits report on and claim, we cured poverty over two decades ago”. Alas, we haven’t. And sadly, nonprofits alone never will. Global philanthropy budgets are around $450 Billion a year. A massive number to be sure, but this pales in comparison to the $120 Trillion being spent on commerce and trade every year.

The research on what is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals — shared in books like Dead Aid, Winners Take All, Poor Economics, and Creating a World Without Poverty to name a few — all highlight one critical takeaway: If we want to truly make a meaningful and lasting impact on societal and environmental challenges, we must look beyond the nonprofit sector and look to cross-sector partnerships.

Last month, we shared 10 examples of inspiring social enterprises that have built meaningful cross-sector partnerships. And we are far from being the only organization trying to lead #BuildBackBetter through partnerships.

Previously, we featured global development thought-leader and author of “Partner with Purpose”, Steve Schmida, on our Beyond Buzzwords webinar (watch the recording) to share lessons on improving global development efforts through partnerships.

Our team also loved reading Maximizing the impact of partnerships for the SDGs, a new guide released by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and The Partnering Initiative.

Moving from Theory to Taking Real Action Through Partnerships

There is no business case for enduring poverty or runaway climate change. And there is a great business opportunity, if we seize it, to help harness markets — and all the financial, human, and innovative capital they represent — to deliver the world we want. It’s a minimum $12 trillion opportunity and 380 million more jobs. It is the biggest business plan opportunity of all time and it’s worth going for… Consumers demand it… Employees will leave without it… Governments will eventually require it. -Paul Polman

Partnerships are great in theory, but anybody that has worked on a cross-organizational team will also tell you that they can often be slow moving, difficult to align, and/or easily get derailed by “the weakest link” — that one organization that is forced to deprioritize the partnership because of competing internal pressures bring the whole movement to a halt.

In the MovingWorlds Institute Professional Fellowship we train participants on the theory of Network Leadership, a more effective way to build partnerships. With these principles in mind, partnerships can be actioned on quickly.

Take, for example, the launch of the S-GRID social enterprise accelerator program that was launched in July to help social enterprises recover from COVID and make an even bigger impact as we reimagine a new normal. We did this in partnership with SAP and global corporations, impact investors, industry coalitions, government-funded organizations, nonprofits, and community groups. In this program, we specifically focus on helping social enterprises build high impact partnerships with international corporations and NGOs.

If You Aren’t Thinking About Partnerships, It’s Time To Start

These partnerships can unleash innovative ways of working, mobilizing expertise and hard to reach resources, and create shared accountability in an increasingly complex world. There is a real opportunity to develop new approaches to partnering that go beyond philanthropy, towards generating shared value. – World Economic Forum

If you’re working on improving the state of our world, you better be thinking about partnerships. Regardless of your role, level, and priorities, partnerships should be considered as critical components of your impact and scale-up strategy.

Do you have good examples of cross-sector partnerships? Let us know in the comments below!