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The Power of Collaboration

15 July 2021

By

Dawn Ng

The Power of Collaboration

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5 min read

Asia is big, diverse, and complex – and so are its challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us the cracks in economies and the social sector, but the social investment sector has responded unflinchingly to the unfolding crisis in the short term, and is nurturing systemic solutions for the long run. AVPN members have harnessed the strength of their networks to collaboratively pioneer solutions at scale.

It is this spirit of collaboration and ingenuity that The AVPN Constellations Awards 2021 (Constellations) seeks to celebrate.

The projects we recognise in the Constellations are inspiring, but more importantly, they are action-oriented. Through strong collaborations, they have triggered ripples of positive impact.

We asked our five outstanding Constellations Winners to share their insights on how they leveraged the power of the network to move capital towards impact.

When Collaboration Works

  • Tackling Systemic Problems at Scale

Constellations demonstrate the potential of multi-sector collaborations in delivering reach and scale.

For IMPAct4Nutrition (I4N), the winner of the Health and Wellbeing Award, cross-sector collaboration has been crucial for its success.

“For India to meet its nutrition targets, we need collective action. We need every sector to play its role,” said Dr Rajan Sankar, the Ambassador of I4N.

I4N works with corporations to improve nutrition at the workplace and communities. With greater private sector involvement, they were able to reach over 2.5 million employees, and at least an additional 10 million people in the companies’ customer-base, families, and communities.

  • Improving existing solutions

Collaborations can also improve pre-existing solutions to create a more efficient and scalable product. This was the experience of the Technologies for Collective Good in Agriculture Water Use project, one of the two winners of the Climate Action and Environment Award. In this initiative, CultYvate redesigned a sensor by Centres for International Projects Trust’s (CIPT) to make it more affordable and accessible to farmers in Punjab. Their initiative collectively saved over 238, 534,000 litres of water and 27,241Kwh of energy, and reached over 3565 end-beneficiaries.

“Finding an exciting new technology and a great entrepreneur, and then funding them for growth, is not enough when it comes to solving challenges like water use in agriculture,” said Srinivas Ramanujam, the CEO of Villgro Innovations, one of the project partners and an incubator that works with innovative social enterprises. Forging unlikely partnerships was a catalyst that helped to improve the solution at hand and scale the impact of their project.

  • Driving ecosystem-wide change

While multi-sector collaboration is a term that is often bandied about, it is not easily achieved. A strong leadership and shared vision are key. The winner of the Social Equality and Inclusion Award category, Community Housing Movement (CHM) exemplifies the complexity of such partnerships – to great success. Leveraging social, public and private stakeholders, CHM provides affordable and decent housing to alleviate the poverty of the grassroots household in Hong Kong. Within 3 years, the social movement has transformed the social housing ecosystem, benefitting over 1000 grassroots and 664 households in need.

“Various stakeholders want to contribute to the social initiative, but sometimes, the partnership requires key leaders to take off, such as credible non-profit organisations or the government, who will lead the cause and bear the risk,” reflected Charles Ho, the Project Director of CHM, Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS). That is where an intermediary like HKCSS is key to gather the resources necessary to create a collaborative environment.

Selecting the Right Partners

  • Identifying shared aims and beliefs

To build a successful collaboration, organisations need to discern and select the right partners. This was highlighted by one of the winners of the Climate Action and Environment Award, the Green Supply Chain Action of the Real Estate Industry in China (GSCA).

With five organisations working together with consultants and non-governmental organisations, GSCA encourages Chinese real estate enterprises to voluntarily improve their environmental performance and reduce carbon emissions via green supply chain management. Their joint efforts have led to an increase in overall green procurement, from $1.5 million in 2017 to $1.54 billion in 2020.

“It is important to look for partners with the same values and beliefs,” said Zhang Li, the Secretary General of the Society of Entrepreneurs & Ecology (SEE) Foundation, a core partner in GSCA. It is also crucial to have a clear division of responsibilities among the partners. By doing so, each organisation could better utilise their different resources and expertise for the initiative.

  • Converging diverse expertise

For the Transformation of Aspirational District Programme, winner of the People’s Choice award, having holistic partners with diverse expertise is a must. The programme seeks to not only improve healthcare indicators across 25 aspirational districts in India, which accounts for close to 41 million people, but also change the public’s perspective on these districts. “Each partner complements the other in their skill sets and expertise… The convergence, collaboration, and competition between districts have re-energised the government functions” said Dr Shailendra Hegde, Senior Vice President from the Piramal Swasthya Management and Research Institute, a key partner in the Transformation of Aspirational District Programme.

The programme has been lauded a success for its local development track record. In the last three years, the programme has already seen an increase in pregnant women registering for antenatal care from 74% to 94%. It has also mobilised over 250 million community members and government officials to support holistic nutrition in 15 districts.

  • Connecting through Networks

So how can organisations find the right partners? The partnership between CultYvate and CIPT for the Technologies for Collective Good in Agriculture Water Use project started through a meeting organised by Hindustan Unilever foundation and Villgro Innovations. “I’m 100% sure this wouldn’t have happened if Villgro had not connected CultYvate and CIPT together,” said Mallesh Tigali, the Founder and CEO of CUltYvate.

According to Dr Shailendra Hegde, networks providing collaborative opportunities are vital. “Platforms like AVPN can play an instrumental role in bringing partners to the same forum, on the same platform, and help them identify and reach out to potential collaborators. It gives us an opportunity to engage with multiple partners and share each other’s experiences, thereby building better collaborations.”

At AVPN, we strive to build a strong collaborative ecosystem to move capital more effectively towards impact. Learn more about our Constellations Awards 2021 here.

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

Author

Dawn Ng

AVPN Intern

Dawn is a freelance writer and Linguistics and Sociology undergraduate at the National University of Singapore. Having interned at AVPN for 4 months, she has had the honour of supporting their numerous projects on social media, including the AVPN Constellations Awards 2021.

In her spare time, she likes to write, paint, and play her newly bought cello.

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