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Collaboration with the For-Profit World

The Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship identifed three major trends that the social sector faces. These are the 3 C’s (we like to keep it simple!) being: Competition, Collaboration and Coopetition.

This blog has already discussed a little around competition, but now we turn our attention to collaboration. This can take two forms; within the social sector (as mentioned in the previous post on Networking) and secondly with the for-profit sector. This idea of collaborating with the for-profit sector is not new, although it has been contentious in the past. Now we are starting to see very serious collaborations starting to appear. The most famous one is the Grameen-Danone joint venture delivering yogurt to poor children in Bangladesh. Yet the mobile phone arrangement with Telenor the Norwegian phone company has run into issues having been very successful, perhaps too successful.

But not every collaboration needs to be this big or complicated. A more recent one has been on your screens; National Geographic society has now teamed up with Ambi-Pur range of air freshners (owned by Sara Lee corporate), backed by a £6 million marketing spend. True to the spirit of the arrangement, the ambi-pur product is packaged in recycled and recyclable materials. Quite a coup for Sara Lee.

Of course these deals must ensure success to both parties, without the damage of brand. There are many strong brands in the social sector, and for example a partnership with a bank or investment house may have looked good five years ago but could be potentially disasterous in the current environment. Yet well planned deals like Danone (who approached Grameen directly with a social cause in mind) have borne fruit. In a sense it is no different to a partnership with any other organisation whether they be for-profit or more than profit.

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