Cooperation is a cornerstone of social entrepreneurship.
Cooperation in a Competitive Marketplace
Sure, competition is also a part of doing business, and competition helps organizations become more and do more so that their products and services continually improve.
Yet, social enterprises will have to also learn to cooperate. The reason is because social enterprises will often have to work with other organizations in order to achieve their mission. Social enterprises may partner up with other social enterprises. They may partner up with commercial businesses. Social enterprises may even cooperate with governments and non-government organizations (NGOs).
Social enterprises that work with the community will also have to deal with community groups, such as local leadership structures.
The Complexity of Cooperation for Social Enterprises
The more complex the mission of the social enterprise, the more cooperating partners that the enterprise is likely to need.
I’ve been working with the UN World Food Programme in Bangladesh for close to two years now, and I can vouch that working with other partners and beneficiary groups can be both empowering but also overwhelming.
Pros & Cons of Cooperation for Social Enterprises
It can be empowering because you work with other organizations that specialize in their field and which can give useful input and advice. Cooperating with other organizations helps to leverage the strengths, talents and resources of each of the organizations.
Cooperation can also be overwhelming. What I mean by this is the fact that sometimes the partners may not totally agree with a line of thinking, and instead of empowering each other and implementing the mission quickly, cooperation can lead to inefficiencies and delays. There can be lots of talking but not much action. I’ve witnessed some of these challenges myself and it can often be frustrating and annoying when this happens.
Balance Cooperation with Efficiency
I agree that cooperation has its place for social enterprises. However, from my experience working for an international organization that runs multi-million dollar social programmes while working with governments, NGOs and beneficiaries, I suggest that cooperation needs to be balanced with the need for efficiency. Cooperating partners can talk about their ideas and their points of views.
In the end, I believe that cooperative partnerships are made so that actions and results are actually achieved.
Focus on Common Goals & Values in a Partnership
Often, when partner organizations begin conflicting in their views, you should take the initiative to bring the organizations back in line to what’s important and what’s common. Usually, even though organizations may not agree in some aspects of implementation and execution, the overall vision of both organizations may be the same.
Focus on the commonalities of the end goal. This can help pull the cooperative partnership through the rough patches.