What if...?

January 17, 2022


minute read
Cassie Robinson
Funders Collaborative Hub Strategy Group

What would your 'dream collaboration' be?

One of the ambitions of the Funders Collaborative Hub is to inspire more collaboration, coordination and cooperation. This might be funders working more wisely together, working more collaboratively with their grantees, collaborating with other partners and sectors, or getting better at funding and encouraging others to collaborate.

So much more becomes possible when we find new people to work with and more and better ways to work together, so to start the year off we asked a group of funders and others to share what kinds of collaborations they’d like to see happen. We hope this sparks ideas about what’s possible when it comes to collaboration, and encourages people to either initiate or get involved in one. 

Vidhya Alakeson, CEO, Power to Change:

"One of the things that I think we need to be able to do to truly transform places is to be able to leverage private capital, not just public and philanthropic funding."

"The pockets of major pension funds and other investors are far, far deeper, and their timescales ironically longer than in government or philanthropy. My dream collaboration would be to bring a group of philanthropic funders together with a major pension fund to see how together we could support a community-led vision for the transformation of a neighbourhood or town centre.

My ambition would be that this exemplar would demonstrate to pension funds and similar types of private capital that working with philanthropy, their money can go to parts of the country where they currently wouldn’t choose to invest and that they can work with communities, not just with larger stakeholder like universities or local authorities. Demonstrating this would create major pools of funding to turbo-charge community-led regeneration."

Eirini Malliaraki, Deep Science Ventures:

"The total amount of philanthropic contributions in the world in 2019 exceeded $730 billion. But only $5-$9 billion of that total was dedicated to climate change mitigation initiatives."

"As well as establishing an enabling environment for more innovations in place, we need to perform technology and policy assessments of early-stage choices to understand their ability to contribute to negative emissions at scale. Philanthropies are well placed to lead this work; they have decades of experience working with governments, the private sector, and non-profit organisations to support innovation and the deployment of new climate solutions, with solar being a notable example.

To achieve this rapid transition to net-zero, the world requires an open ecosystem of data, software, and digital infrastructure that help us decarbonise various industries and protect environmental systems. Funders should more actively support directly open-source initiatives and their developers (such as those described by Open Sustain tech) as well as project uptake by communities around the world.

This support can take the form of open infrastructure funds, consortia-based services or other models for collaboration across institutions and regions. Such collaborations will allow funders to further a larger, more systemic shift towards open, community-owned and operated infrastructure at the institutional level." 

Caroline Mason, CEO, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation:

Turning the tables: what would happen if funders had to bid for impact, rather than organisations/initiatives having to bid for funding? 

"After all, unless a funder is also an operational charity, change and impact is not delivered by funders but by people on the ground.  Funders are catalysts and facilitators of impact, so if we collectively turn the tables around, what might that mean?  Here are some ideas:

  • It would mean that organisations could put together a long term strategic plan and identify the budget mix of resourcing required as a whole, rather than in little, limited, different, unhelpful, time-consuming chunks.  
  • It would mean that funders could bid collectively, playing to their respective strengths to create a package of co-ordinated support for the full organisational plan (unrestricted funding, research, capital, funder plus support, project funding, social investment, convening, etc).
  • It would mean that organisations would report on progress against their plan once to all funders rather than in different, overlapping and multiple ways.
  • It would mean that, as funders, we could invest in collective infrastructure such as shared due diligence, a payments hub, consistent and reliable data management, etc.  That would mean more money spent on impact rather than process.
  • It would mean that funders would need to know each other better, understand each other better and understand their collective contributions better.

Anyone fancy giving it a go?"

Daze Aghaji, Creative Director, EarthRise Studio:

"I’d love to see funders come together to really invest in young people."

"When I say young people, I mean from five years old upwards. Not young people’s services, but young people’s ideas. If young people were invested in, to practise writing policy (yes, five-year-olds!), to be encouraged to be creative, then there would be a different quality to change-making. So many young people have their creativity taken away because they are in crippling debt. If there was a fund just for young people to have the time, space and freedom to dream together, the kinds of collaborations that could grow from that would have a real ripple effect. I’m not sure if funders need to collaborate more - I think they need to co-invest in creating the conditions for young people to build collaborations."

Anna de Pulford, Director, The Dulverton Trust: 

"I’m really interested in a collaboration between foundations that would facilitate knowledge-sharing and challenge between their Boards."

"My hypothesis is that this peer forum would provide an opportunity to explore the aspects of mission, values, and good practice, which tend to go on the back-burner in the context of very pressured Board meetings. I think this exposure to other foundations - which for Trustees is generally lacking - could ignite energy, challenge and a greater sense of clarity about how to bring the most value. What happens at Board level still determines so much, so why don’t we start with some collaborative activity there?"

Nick Stanhope, Founder, Shift Design:

"I'd love to see a broad and diverse network of funders and philanthropists collaborate to put really big chunks of money into a new kind of climate change fund."

"All those involved in this collaboration would bring investment, as well as learning, networks and much else into the formation of this new collective mission, but they would also share an understanding that their current ways of working, governance structures, sources of power and skills and capabilities aren't capable of creating the conditions for the change needed. So this fund would be designed and run outside of these existing institutions.

It would make 10+ year investments; it would value diverse, equitable and pluralistic teams, networks and movements; it would create space for collective exploration of brave new horizons; it would create new infrastructure and markets that can sustain transformational change; it would have the freedom, scope and pragmatism to work across different sectors and internationally."

Jo Choukeir, Director of Design + Innovation, RSA:

"My dream collaboration would be one where organisations with a genuine commitment to creating better futures for people and planet actively come together to look at how they can deepen and broaden the impact they can have by working more closely together, rather than alongside or against each other."

"In change work, regardless of sector, we have created active separation between social, ecological and economic issues; between scales of intervention, whether local, regional, national or global; between levels of intervention, whether mindset, policy, structural or behavioural; between the past, present and future.

The transition towards a better future for people and planet would require us to see all these things as part of a complex, interconnected whole system, a whole that requires re-imagining. This means that organisations that care about each of these things as separate, need to start working closely with others who care about some of the other things and the glue between the things. The likes of Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the New Economics Foundation working together on resourcing whole system change interventions. The Local Government Association and the UN coming together to explore what the 'Glocal' transition could look like. And so on." 

What can you imagine being achieved through a particular collaboration?

Cassie Robinson
Funders Collaborative Hub Strategy Group

Thank you to all our contributors to this blog. It left me wondering what my dream collaboration would be, and I found that hard!

What I do want to explore more is how we create the best conditions to encourage collaboration (or coordination), and especially so that new kinds of partnerships can be created - the unexpected ones. I also still wonder what would happen if some funders stopped funding individual initiatives altogether.

What can you imagine being achieved through a particular collaboration? Do you have one in mind? 

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