In the practical masterclass, Herman reflected on the ‘why’ of collaboration and concluded that working in a partnership means that you have greater capacity and capability to implement complex projects. It allows an organisation to remain close to their core qualities and skills, as well as working together with partners encourages learning and broadening perspectives. So what makes a partnership effective?

Keep your eyes on the ball

Using examples of projects such as the Special Treat Project and Water4Virungas, Herman shared four lessons that he has learned over the past few years.

  1. Communicate your value-added and core qualities. You can be opportunistic but think carefully in advance which partners complement your organisation well. If you can be concrete about your added value, other organisations are in a better position to determine whether a partnership makes sense.
  2. Design an organisation structure and system that fit with the type of projects and the type of partners. No project is the same, and the structures introduced need to enable the project and not vice versa. So don’t force your existing systems, but explore together what system would work for everyone.
  3. Dare to confront in a constructive manner and always seek for structural solutions. Collaboration is rarely easy, especially when it involves different types of people. Do not shy away from critical discussions when they are necessary, but remember to be constructive in your approach to prevent escalation. 
  4. Agree and comply on what to communicate to whom, particularly to the donors. With multiple partners involved, and to avoid chaos, make clear agreements on who are informed, when this happens and how.

Take an entrepreneurial approach

In addition, in more recent collaborations, MDF has sought to work more as an entrepreneur looking for social impact projects that have a business model included. Working in this way requires a totally different set of skills and approaches without losing the social impact perspective, an interesting challenge ahead.

Interested to learn more about our experiences in project management? Subscribe to MDF’s podcast ‘Blame the Project Manager’ and listen to what other project managers have to say about effective collaboration.