The diagrams above show how connections between organizations can evolve when complex collaborations work. During a webinar on January 18, Zach Anderson, Partner at Converge for Impact, shared why complex collaborations are needed to create sustainable positive impactand what is required to make those collaborations succeed.

No one organization or even sector can solve the complex problems our world faces. That’s why, according to Converge, collaboration among organizations is critical for real systems change. But collaboration, particularly across organizations, is hard, and it typically requires that people engage in ways they may not be used to.

Most organizations are accustomed to operating with a singular focus on their mission and activities. However, it’s possible to increase the scale of their impact by viewing the problem with a systems-lens and seeing the organization as just one part of an interconnected constellation of other partners, who all intersect with the same central issue — whether it be alleviating poverty, providing access to quality health care, or improving education outcomes. With this reframed perspective, organizations can more effectively partner together in ways that support their existing work and serve their self-interests, while also working collaboratively and strategically to achieve more together than they ever could alone.

Any successful collaboration must actively manage what Converge calls the “Five C’s”: Clarify purpose, Convene the right people, Cultivate trust, Coordinate existing actions, and Collaborate at the systems level. To illustrate the Five C’s in action, Anderson shared the work of the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network, a cross-sector collaboration of 19 organizations focused on improving land stewardship over 500k acres of one of the world’s most unique ecosystems.

Anderson emphasized the importance of building trust-based relationships among participants. “In our experience, which is supported by research, trust is the single most important ingredient in any successful collaboration. Trust is a verbit’s not something you feel, it’s something you do,” Anderson said. “To realize the potential of collaboration, any process must explicitly invest time and attention in connecting people.”

The second half of the webinar involved a lively Q&A discussion, during which participants asked questions such as “Where are the trip wires to building collaborations that work?” “How do you make the leap from a learning network to an impact network?” And “what’s the secret to having the right person facilitate during hard conversations?”

To view a recording of the webinar, click here. And to learn more about this topic, check out the following resources recommended by Converge:

Read more about how to make complex collaborations work in this blog post.