The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 marked a fundamental shift in approach to international development. Intrinsic to the SDGs is the understanding that no goal can be achieved without all sectors of society playing their essential roles, and without collaboration within and across sectors at unprecedented scale.
Within the overall system, philanthropic organisations have a hugely important and unique role: as partners, as funders, as drivers of innovation and as catalysts for collective action. To maximise the value from partnerships, foundations are finding they need to change the way they think and operate.
At TPI, we bring years of experience in partnering from working across all sectors, including the UN system, the private sector, NGOs and government. We are now excited to be working with philanthropic foundations in the US, Europe and beyond, on a collaborative programme to explore current approaches in the sector and directly and practically support the partnering ambitions of the foundations involved.
Together we are understanding the incentives for change, exchanging good practice around foundations and partnering, developing new approaches, process and guidance, and discovering what it means for a foundation to be institutionally fit for partnering.
Opportunities and challenges
Foundations are exploring new partnering approaches – for instance, moving from grantmaking to a strategic partnering relationship with grantees, or encouraging their grantees to collaborate with each other to jointly deliver impact. Others are seeking to fund, or even themselves catalyse, new multi-stakeholder partnerships.
However, working in new, collaborative ways can be challenging. Power imbalances and traditional mindsets make it difficult to shift the nature of a donor/grantee relationship to that of partners. Competition, or an insufficient overlap of interest, among grantees can inhibit their working together and needs to be handled carefully. Foundations that desire to support partnerships financially often find those partnerships are not delivering more than the sum of their parts. And those that desire to actively develop new transformational partnerships will usually have to go through a very steep learning curve to help make them happen effectively.
Initial inquiry phase
The programme has begun with an initial inquiry phase to establish a baseline and needs analysis for the sector, and to work with Pioneer Foundation Members to carry out tailored ‘Fit for Partnering’ assessments that look at how well they are institutionally set up and operating to maximise impact through collaboration.
Some critical lines of inquiry for the programme are:
- A changing landscape: What are the diverse ways in which Foundations are seeking to partner with grantees and support wider partnerships to maximise impact?
- The learning process: What are the key challenges of working in this way and how can they be overcome?
- Matching ambition with infrastructure: How do Foundations need to change the way they work to drive collaborative transformational development.
We are thrilled to have kicked off the initial Inquiry phase of work with a group of eight foundations to develop the programme and two Pioneer Members, Z Zurich Foundation and Johnson & Johnson Foundation.
|Z Zurich Foundation empowers communities to better protect themselves from risk, and to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world. Click here to visit their website.|
|Johnson & Johnson Foundation empowers people to address the health needs of the most vulnerable populations and help change the trajectory of health for humanity. Click here to visit their website.
In the next phase, the programme will develop:
- Understanding of, and guidance towards, how a foundation needs to change to become institutionally ‘fit for partnering’;
- Guidance for foundations and NGOs to work most effectively together as partners, along with the dynamic approach required to shift the nature of the relationship;
- Guidance, and a set of tools and templates, for foundations to effectively foster and support partnerships across their lifecycle;
- Tools to help both optimize and measure the value-add being created by partnerships;
- Guidance around how grantees themselves need to change in order to engage more effectively and deliver more value through partnerships,
- Benchmarking tools to allow foundations to estimate resourcing options for new partnerships.
If you are a foundation interested in joining the second phase of the Partnering for Philanthropic Impact programme, please contact Jenny Ekelund (email@example.com) or complete the form below: