Fostering a culture of collaborative partnership for innovation

Publication | Published at: December 04 2020

There is a critical need for bold and collective action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Unfortunately, far too few partnerships and consortiums succeed. This case study will examine the strategies that drive effective partnerships. But more so, it will explore the strategies needed to foster a collaborative partnership culture, which was key to the CECI-WUSC partnership’s unparalleled success. 

Initiated in 2003 to respond to the challenges and build upon the historical experience of international volunteering for development (V4D) in Canada, CECI and WUSC united to run a new, larger and innovative initiative called the Uniterra program. The partnership was heralded as the first major social innovation among global development actors in over 30 years (Adler, 2007). This partnership was unique because it was not simply transactional in nature - dividing responsibilities according to various sectors of expertise. It is unusual in a consortium to fully integrate operations in order to
manage a single program. Furthermore, no other Canadian partnership in the development sector has demonstrated such performance and longevity over 16 years. Indeed, long-term collaborations or partnerships between organizations are difficult to sustain over time.

Our purpose in this case study is to contribute to learning about partnership building within the development sector, and to propose a framework for joint action. The case study attempts to investigate and interrogate the mechanisms that drove collaboration and innovation in the CECIWUSC partnership. They built on the raditional strategies for effective partnerships as a foundation to create and sustain a culture of collaborative partnership for innovation. This case study will begin by reviewing how the partnership was initiated (Part 1). CECI and WUSC invested in specific strategies to cultivate a culture of collaboration, specifically relationship building, expert support, fostering good governance and framing and mindful communication (Part 2). As demonstrated in the table below, this thoughtful and deliberate approach led to collaborative outcomes and innovations, far beyond the expected results of the Uniterra program (Part 3).