Best Practice Series #6: Saving Money Through Collaboration

On March 10th, we completed our sixth Best Practice Webinar with the community. In this webinar, we explored opportunities to save money through collaboration. 
Collaboration can help reduce organizational costs through lowering costs of commonly purchased goods. Two common examples are negotiating collective purchasing agreements and software license purchases.  During our conversation, there was a strong focus, not only on saving through collective purchases, but also on the potential to share human capital. We also explored how conveners may collaborate effectively and manage partnerships to achieve cost reduction. We would like to thank Bioneers, Toniic, SEA, Opportunity Collaboration, and GreenerMind Summit for their participation.
Collaboration to reduce costs has been a topic of conversation for both the conveners and accelerators communities over the last couple of months. Both communities have shared an interest in exploring how we might collaborate to share both human capital and resources.

Best Practice #1 – Have clear definitions of roles and responsibilities and clear expectations.

When entering into collaboration – especially between organizations – the group identified a best practice in clarifying roles and responsibilities for each organization, and for the individual staff within each organization. Identifying a single project manager to act as the point person for all organizations was considered most effective. To ensure that people felt engaged throughout the process, it is also useful to have someone in the role of managing relationships between organizations. Finally, using collaborative conversation technology like Slack was another best practice to support clear and open lines of communication.
Opportunity – As there are now multiple organizations serving similar audiences, a new opportunity is emerging in the Convening ecosystem to co-host events. Rather than three separate two-three day long events throughout the year, conveners serving overlapping audiences can find efficiency in co-hosting a week-long event. The effective execution of co-hosted events requires investing in relationships and establishing clear communication standards.

“This past summit in September was a joint arrangement with the ASA (Alternative Staffing Alliance) – so ASA participants had a discount to the broader summit, and then they held their own convening.” – Kila Englebrook, Social Enterprise Alliance


Best Practice #2 – Create and share template documents

Partnership Agreement templates could be helpful in supporting more effective collaboration between partners. Having a template that enables people to clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of each organization, the required legal indemnification language, and suggestions for how to navigate financial cost and revenue sharing, would save money and, most importantly time, in establishing collaborative convenings. The participants saw a role for to both identify the best documents and to distribute them to members. members will be starting a Collective Impact Project to explore how to save time by identifying existing resources and creating a standard moderator training guide that best sets up their moderators up for success.


Best Practice #3 – Physical product co-purchasing sounds good in theory, but is challenging in practice.

There are several products that every almost convening uses: Lanyards, Name Tags, Flip Charts, Markers, Post-Its etc. In theory, these common products provide an opportunity to reduce costs by purchasing in bulk, but the logistics of transporting these goods held people back from thinking this would be worth pursuing. Topher Wilkins of Opportunity Collaboration had one suggestion for those conveners who are looking to purchase from social enterprises, and who do not require their lanyards as sponsorship space. Nayaka School creates beaded necklaces that, as Jessica Loman of Toniic put it, are “amazing”. Nayaka School works to break the cycle of systemic poverty in rural areas of Uganda through community development, education, and healthcare.
Topher will be buying at least 500 of these necklaces to serve as lanyards this year, and if any other conveners are interested in using them, he would be happy to look at a larger 1,000+ purchasing contract to see how much the price per unit could be reduced.  If you are interested in learning more, please email Topher.

“They looked very different, and the revenue went to support an awesome social enterprise in Uganda. “ – Topher Wilkins, Opportunity Collaboration

 Nayaka School creates beaded necklaces that as Jessica Loman put it are “amazing”. They work to break the cycle of systemic poverty in rural areas of Uganda through community development, education, and healthcare.
Nayaka School supplies beautiful and reusable beaded lanyards for Opportunity Collaboration.


Best Practice #4 – Use a shared technology platform to improve collaboration on information and learning from each other’s experiences

Toniic has found that having the investors in their network on Gust enables them to learn from one another while reducing the cost of due diligence.  “We work with over 350 investors around the world, so when one of our investors is interested in investing in an energy deal in Fenix International, but has never invested in Africa/Uganda/or Energy – they can tap the experts from our community to help shape the questions they should consider.”  This can save a lot of money in travel costs. 
For conveners, technology platforms like Hylo, Slack, Salesforce Communities, or Ning can make it easier to share expertise and save money by avoiding mistakes others have made in the past.

Open Question – Is there an opportunity to refer and recommend part-time employees or contractors between conveners?

Topher Wilkins raised the question above and the idea was echoed by other participants. Given that many conveners only need staff for six months of the year, there may be an opportunity for convenings to share staff.  It is still an open question of how it might work for conveners to recommend staff/contractors to one another, but this seems like an important opportunity to explore in the future.

“For a lot of conferences, there is a 6 month ramp up, then it happens, then it stops, what would it look like to share people across events?” – Topher Wilkins, Opportunity Collaboration