Strategic Partnerships as a Vehicle to Make a Lasting Impact

Strategic Partnerships as a Vehicle to Make a Lasting Impact

The Fedcap Group is comprised of a growing number of top tier companies with a common mission of improving the long economic well-being of individuals we serve. Our combination, with over 20 companies, is driven by the unprecedented complexity and enormity of the social, political, and economic challenges facing the nonprofit sector. We do not believe that these challenges can be tackled alone. Moving the needle and fundamentally changing the outcomes for those we serve requires a concerted, collaborative action by organizations committed to making a long term, sustained impact. Effective combinations enhance our collective market position, improve efficiency in service delivery, enhance our overall service structure, improve quality and have potential to achieve broader systems change.

It is our experience that this kind of integration of efforts requires significant time, energy, effort and resources. It requires that we develop a collaborative mindset by working together to define success, articulate shared goals, and create mechanisms for rigorously measuring

As an example, a collaborative of institutional funders focused on poverty alleviation. Tom Fry, a member of the collaborative, characterizes Big Bang as a learning community where members exchange information and profile grantees to accelerate the flow of funds. “It’s a symbiotic relationship” explains Fry. “Each member brings their expertise and knowledge, and that enhances everyone’s decision-making ability and ultimately achieves greater impact.”

This concept of a learning community is at the heart of our approach to combinations. Strategically working to identify best and promising practices, leveraging each company’s core competencies and building and sharing knowledge, improves our collective efforts.

A successful learning community provides a platform to fundamentally improve the outcomes for individuals we serve, as well as to influence the way that systems design and fund services.

It sets goals and measures collective progress.

It provides a platform for shared learning—both successes and failures.

It provides diverse opportunities for people to develop skills.

It accelerates learning toward replication and scale.

By joining together, nonprofit organizations create an optimal environment for staying relevant, ensuring long term sustainability and measurable impact.

Shifting Culture as a Strategic Imperative

Shifting Culture as a Strategic Imperative

The building of a culture requires a thirst for knowledge about what is….”   J. Bennett

Last week, I wrote about the imperative of establishing an organizational culture that embraces change as an essential key to managing strategic risk and accomplishing organizational goals. Over the next few weeks, I will be examining the mechanisms for identifying and analyzing organizational culture and ways to systematically shift the culture as required.

Shifting culture is not necessarily easy—but it is possible—and it can be done with the right process that is emphasized and supported over time. That process includes: 1) clearly identifying and acknowledging the prevailing culture; 2) setting a vision for culture and establishing accountability mechanisms to advance expected behaviors; and 3) ensuring that our employees are acknowledged and supported as they begin to make the necessary behavioral and attitudinal shifts.

Acknowledging the prevailing culture: As leaders, we must be aware of the prevailing culture. This means that we understand what is happening two, three, four layers down in the organization.  Some leaders may make the mistake of assuming that the way people treat them, respond to them or interact with them is the norm across the agency.  Often it is not.  

I do this in several ways. 

First, we talk about culture and its inextricable link to organizational success.  I make it a point of talking with our senior leaders and staff how an innovative, responsive and data-driven culture is a foundation for successfully carrying out our long-term strategy.  That successful and high-performing organizations have a culture that is purpose-driven, performance-focused, and principle-led. 

Then I ask—how do we compare?  I make no assumptions but instead invite feedback and honest assessment from employees by asking very specific questions that speak to culture—sometimes in quick and informal settings and sometimes in more formal gatherings.

I call for honesty around what might be identified as subterranean cultural issues that might interfere with the organization achieving its goals.  For example, I ask…do people respond in a timely manner to one another?  Does the field feel supported by corporate services?  Do they get the information they need, as rapidly as they need it to do their work, manage their budgets, hire good people? I work hard to create a safe place for people to speak directly to the issues of culture and engagement. With every conversation, I listen carefully. This listening establishes trust, which in turn, engenders direct and honest feedback. I want to hear it all. Sometimes I hear things that are difficult or in direct contrast to the kind of culture that is required for success. I invite the truth, and I am not afraid to hear it.  I encourage senior leaders of the organization to be equally as inquisitive, as interested in the day-to-day experiences of their staff.  And I want to know what they learn. 

This learning provides us with the opportunity to act.   We have a sense of where there are gaps—in communication, trust, accountability, and delivery of expected results—and we can respond. 

As we continue to explore culture next week, I will speak to the setting a vision and establishing accountability mechanisms to advance expected behaviors at the leadership and line staff level.