Collaboration: “Not for the Faint of Heart”

Health and social issues are so complex that no single agency can expect to solve them alone. Limited resources required nonprofits, government, and funders alike to be creative in stretching dollars to make an impact. Collaboration is often regarded as a solution to both the complexity problem, and the resources problem. But as panelists at the Celebration of Human Services pointed out, collaboration carries challenges.

Telange Thomas, Director of Foundation Center Midwest moderated a discussion with Susanna Krey, President of Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, Helen Williams, The Cleveland Foundation’s Program Director for Education, and Judy Wright, Executive Director of Ohio Transformation Fund. Recognizing the need to work together toward common goals and bring multi-faceted solutions to bear, these funders both encourage organizations to work together and are collaborating themselves. As one of the panelists pointed out, “We have financial resources to bring. Other people have different things to bring.”

One of the most interesting portions of the discussion occurred when panelists were asked to describe collaboration in five words or less. Their responses are included in the word cloud, above.

A theme repeated throughout the conversation was that collaboration should not be the end goal, but should be a means to achieve the goal. It is a key intervention strategy, but building and maintaining an effective collaboration means putting in significant time and effort. Participants pointed to competency, reliability, and honesty as key components, and that trust is a concrete capacity that needs to be built and tended between partnering agencies. For more information about some of the collaborations happening in our community, check out Ohio Transformation Fund, Say Yes to Education, and Cleveland’s Central Promise Neighborhood.

To read about other sessions at the Celebration of Human Services held on October 20, 2017, please click here.