In the world of not for profits and charities – the presence of duplication and the need for collaboration is a hot topic. We all guiltily know we should be collaborating more– but when the rubber hits the road there are often roadblocks!

When New Scoop learned about the partnership between Ambrose University and The Edge of the United Church of Canada it seemed important to take notice and identify learnings.

The story begins in the spring of 2015. Ambrose, in the planning phase of their second Soul of the Next Economy conference in September 2015, decides to include a Dragon’s Den type event. Meanwhile in another part of Calgary, Carla Leon of the Edge of the United Church of Canada was working with a number of community partners to host a Social Innovation Challenge also in the fall of 2015.

When it was brought to her attention that there was a similar project being hosted by a faith based institution, Carla and her team had a choice point. Did they go ahead with a separate duplicate project or explore collaboration?

It was clear as Carla and Angie Redecopp, from Ambrose University, reflected on their collaborative journey, that their choices were based on values and beliefs.

“It is never too late to collaborate”

“You can never have too many friends”

“Collaboration leads to synergy and the project is usually always better”

They describe the journey to collaboration as a bit of a dance; coming together, stepping forward, stepping back, looping in other members of their teams, trying a different turn. Or in other words:

  • Getting to know each other. Carla said they probably over communicated at first, lots of emails
  • Checking alignments of projects
  • Being a broker back to the home team, facilitating the dialogue

A question New Scoop had as we listened was,  “How do you know when genuine collaboration is taking place?” From the reflections offered it seemed there were three indicators:

  • A genuine willingness to let go of predetermined expectations about the outcomes, or perhaps of one’s entire attachment to the project. Carla shared that her team was prepared to walk away from the work they had done if collaboration was not possible.
  • A feeling of uncertainty which comes from letting of previously held ideas
  • An expectation of and openness to something new

The end result of this collaboration was 25 innovations including approximately 35 innovators as well as panelists, mentors, pitching coaches, and numerous other collaborators & volunteers.

A further outcome was the commitment to jointly host the Challenge again next year. Stay tuned to see how the story emerges and what learnings will be integrated into next year’s event.

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