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Blog by TPI Associates – Todd Kirkbride and Ian Dixon.

What happens when a football club hires the world’s best players for each position but continues to train them individually, rather than as a team adapting to each other’s strengths and weakness? Most certainly they will have a less than stellar winning record that will cost the club owners a fortune and disappoint fans.

In trying to understand the real meaning behind all the COVID rhetoric of ‘building back better’ and ‘all in this together’, this analogy highlights the simple truth that no matter how great any organization (or country’s) individual action to this pandemic may be, eventually we will not succeed unless we work together.

Collaboration and partnerships are being recognized as more important than ever to solve the many complex problems highlighted by the COVID crisis. Initial responses have revealed countless cases of new models of unlikely actors working together and organizations of all types (public, private and civil society) going above and beyond to protect their workers, supply chains and communities. But as the ‘flattening the curve’ timelines are lengthening and the ‘second waves’ are emerging worse than initial outbreaks, it appears inevitable that everyone is going to have to adapt and endure for the long haul.

At a time when society MUST band together in order to survive, increasing uncertainty and diminishing budgets/income and work staff, now appear to be causing organizations to turn inward, thereby missing the opportunity to invest in partnerships which expand access to resources and enable ‘building back better’ in a more sustainable and inclusive manner.

Where there is change there is opportunity

COVID, in all its awfulness, appears to be the potential unifying cause presenting humanity with a window of opportunity to realign our previous paths and reexamine what is needed to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda. From climate change to global health to food security and education for all, we are in fact, ‘all in it together’. We will have to adopt a shared value approach through partnerships that advance business goals by enabling regulations which benefit society and improve the environment.

The pandemic is breaking down traditional silos forcing integration of health, economic growth, education, rule of law (equality), etc. Now is the time that innovation and technology have an even more critical role to play in helping us co-design solutions to traverse these barriers. According to the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset,

“As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons.”

All of us need to take advantage of rethinking and rebuilding NOW before the window closes, and we bounce back to the status quo.

McKinsey recently reported that while 90% of executives they surveyed believe that the crisis will fundamentally change the way they do business over the next 5 years, few felt equipped to face the challenge. However more than three-quarters agreed that the crisis will create significant opportunities for growth in some industries.

Another outcome of the pandemic crisis has been the speed at which organisations from all sectors have partnered in responding to a range of challenges. Decision making has been accelerated, red tape has been slashed, ideology has been put to one side and people have just rolled up their sleeves and acted. This drive for speed and potential higher risk tolerance to try something different is likely to continue for a limited time and is having a similar effect on the need for faster partnering. Most organizations, especially those who have previously worked through long and complex partnering arrangements, are looking to partner simply, quickly, and effectively while still ensuring that they can achieve a sustainable, high performing partnership that delivers results.

Why partnering now is more critical than ever

The benefits of partnering have never been more evident as we continue to try and contain the COVID-19 pandemic and to tackle the enormous economic recovery required as a result of this pandemic. The World Bank June 2020 Global Economic Prospects baseline forecast envisions a 5.2 percent contraction in global GDP in 2020. The pandemic is expected to plunge most countries into recession in 2020, with per capita income contracting in the largest number of countries globally since 1870, and this is an optimistic prediction. Clearly, working alone will not suffice – collaboration will be key to growth and success in a post-COVID future.

Organizations facing diminishing resources will need to seek out new partners who can help fill this gap and offer expertise or diversity of thinking to enable innovative practices and products to be developed. These partnerships can mold new relationships and build trust to strengthen one’s own priority areas, such as new products/services and community/social commitments. By working with new, unlikely partners, organizations can see beyond their own line of sight to address these bigger problems exposed by COVID (most of which existed before but seemed less important then). Leveraging resources and contributions from others to complement your skills and expertise will enable far greater outcomes.

While many partnerships today are seen as routine, they are generally ‘transactional’ in nature and supported by contracts, however, the real opportunities in the future lie with ‘integrated’ partnerships. In this type of partnering, organizations converge around a common issue or challenge to co-create innovative solutions. The partnership operates more like a joint venture where all partners come to the table with equal decision-making power and complementary resources. Not only can this type of partnering create new business models, enable new solutions to be developed and solve very tough challenges, they can also reduce risks and stimulate growth opportunities.


It is abundantly clear from our recent COVID-19 experiences that ‘working together’ will be the only way that will be able to conquer the pandemic and to adapt and prosper into the future. Collaboration and partnering will need to become part of core practices for organizations across all sectors and we will need to develop the knowledge and skills to be able to do this simply, quickly and effectively. By designing shorter timelines and offering more flexibility, partnering should appeal to more organizations to address the broader range of problems that we all face in building back better.

Seeking out and implementing new ways to work together within and outside of our organisations should be a high priority for all. There is no alternative as working alone will see us forever slipping back into an ongoing health and economic malaise to be endured by future generations.



TPI Blogs are written by TPI colleagues, close partners and Associates and are shared to help build dialogue about fostering collaboration and building partnerships, in practice. TPI advocates for the use of cross sector partnerships globally. The views and opinions expressed in the blogs do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of TPI as an organisation or it’s associated personnel.

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TPI Global

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