#29 Goal 17 Lets take it from the top!

Image of UN goal 17
Image by United Nations

Moving into the second month of 2017 I am excited to be continuing with my exploration of the Sustainability Development Goals (SDG’s) also referred to as the global goals. I have considered whether these global goals need to be presented in any numerical order or just as the topic becomes most prominent. I have settled with the later.

I have landed with a countdown approach (oh how I love a countdown see Blog #1) I have therefore decided to start with Number 17 of the global goals and the topic of ‘partnerships’ for the global goals. I will add a caveat that to be true to emergence this approach may change over the period of the countdown but for now my efforts have gone into unpacking my interpretation of the

‘ partnerships’ global goal – more importantly how this goal is achievable at both the global and local level.

I shall begin with the constant dialogue around the charitable sectors’ market saturation and diminishing fiscal demands being unable to tackle the many wicked issues. I note the recent paper from the University of South Australia. The title of this paper – ‘Celebrity charities just compete with all other charities – so why start one?’ – is the very essence of partnership and such encouragement definitely gets my attention.

I would strongly advocate that if we are to pay true attention to this message it can be considered at all levels. In particular at the global level and in line with the discussions at Davos in January 2017 where the need for less competition, more collaboration and partnerships was key. A paper titled that ‘Global cooperation is at risk just when our economies need it most’ proposes that we are needing co-operation more than ever before due to the paradigm shift away from the industrial era, knowledge era and into the purpose economy. In particular the ‘rise of machines’ will change the impact and normal processes towards employment and this is a challenge for all that will not be resolved using techniques that have been suited to previous paradigms.

This is partly why I am such an advocate for the global goals as these issues are everyone’s issues. For the first time in history we have global agreement at both an international development and domestic level, which can be aligned with needs at the local level. Albeit only one of the 17 goals I propose that number 17 (partnerships) is like a key to unlock the remaining goals.

In Consequences Blog#24 I referred to a recent Australian publication presenting ‘The Three Sector Solution’, which refers to all sectors working together. Even as the publication states this is just the start of the partnership action required and it is important that each organisation and individual takes responsibility. Similarly in an USA study by FSG on the changing face of collaboration a new sense of urgency was detected:

Changes in the broad economic, political, and policy environments may be creating a greater sense of urgency around social issues, motivating more local groups to work together.

Although the working together can be quite challenging it is this very action that will provide the way forward for more than just the education examples as provided by FSG. I have coined the phrase purposeful prevention and as in Blog #25 describe this at the:

sum of outcomes and collaboration working in parallel to bring about systemic change to achieve positive social impact

Social Ventures Australia (SVA) in ‘Getting our act together’ considered positive social impact within the confines of the proliferation of Australian charitable sector 6. In highlighting the numbers of charities in Australia it becomes more than a numbers debate especially when overlaid with a partnership lens. Although this SVA paper has its roots in the charitable sector I encourage us all particularly within the realms of the global goals to consider how this collaboration can be achieved across all sectors and in all that we do. The three reasons to collaborate and form partnerships that were outlined by SVA are evident for all sectors for the profit, not for profit and public

  1.  Increasing impact
  2. Improving funding
  3. Reducing capital requirement’s and operating costs

There would be limited argument as to why we wouldn’t choose to be in partnership to achieve such a list but one of the biggest challenges can often be communication itself. I have discovered in both my implementation experience and recent research that communication is integral to the three sectors being able to operate successfully in partnership. Having a common language and interpretation of this is an excellent first step in building successful partnerships.

SVA in an earlier paper had concluded ‘six mistakes to avoid around collaboration’. I have expanded these to consider how the bridging between the global goals and our day to day activities could form better partnerships.

Mistake #1Collaborating because it seems like a good idea – collaborating for collaboration sake or forming partnerships to ‘tick a box’ is not enough. All partners need to share a common agenda and there must be a shared reason for change. This again is why the global goals provide a global platform that can be made relevant at all levels and areas of particular interest can be ‘cherry picked’ and be worked towards. Collaborating to make a goal work locally and align globally is more than just a good idea.

Mistake #2 Ignoring the structure and process – In support of this sentiment I could almost refer back to all my Blogs and the concept of STRADDLE™ describing the importance of balancing the tension between structure and spontaneity. More than ever in this purpose economy it is important to take a non-linear approach whilst at the same time building solid frames. I liken this to being like a compass – clear on direction but fluid in the way things transverse. In any partnership development to avoid structure is at your peril but it is equally as important to enable the innovation that makes the partnership fruitful.

Mistake #3 Rushing it – I can totally agree with this sentiment and would propose that the 17th global goal – partnerships – be based upon the following phrase –“move at the speed of trust”. As I have explained about #GoodSave model (Blog#5 & Blog#9) the date of merger may have been 1st July 2015 but the discussions about creation of an emergent strategy to disrupt the system of our existing business model had began two years beforehand. The slowness of this development was not due to any lack of progress more so that such a time frame was required to achieve the progress. Partnerships take time.

Mistake #4 Not investing sufficient resources – Interestingly due to my recent research findings I can ascertain (with much rigor) that adequate resources is a key principle for successful partnerships. In my study adequate resources have been identified as the first of three discoveries (Blog #6 & Blog#8). More importantly to have effective partnerships in the purpose economy it is not for resources to provide the same i.e. continue to fund a project year after year. It is important that resources are provided to support the development of generative leadership, which underpins any successful partnership. This places the debate around supporting/funding administration expenditure centre stage – again its not about funding the same each time it is about ensuring there are adequate resources to enable systemic change – these needs will constantly change.

Mistake #5 Leaving the hard conversations to the end – communication and effective governance communication and its importance within partnerships cannot be communicated enough! It is only through clear lines of communication that the awkward discussions (which there always are when working in partnerships) can be navigated. There is also an element of power imbalance that arises if communication is not a shared approach. This is a particularly difficult challenge when working across sectors, which is why a common language is great for any partnership to have established to assist in this process.

Mistake #6 Not bringing your people on the journey – the culture of organisations and how they align between global and local outcomes, strategies, objectives, outputs is a really important action which the global goals and particularly goal 17 can assist with – particularly in countries like Australia who are yet to firm up a national overarching outcomes framework. The global goals are already part of Australia’s national commitments and I am truly celebrating the fact that these are now set for both international development and domestic needs – making it everybody’s business.

In being keen to advocate for all 17 global goals and starting this celebration countdown with number 17 (partnerships) I plan to share that even though the global goals are extremely aspirational they each have a place in everyday life – across all sectors and are something that each one of us has a responsibility for.

I am pleased I have started my dialogue with the global goals that not only makes a lot of sense but unlocks many actions – partnerships. Enjoy the partnerships you currently have, explore how they can support the global goals and consider how many more partnerships could positively impact social change that you could have achieved by the end of this year!

References

http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

Navy Seals – ‘move at the speed of trust’ (http://www.adaptabilitycoach.com/move-at-the-speed-of-trust/)

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