The Power of Partnership

July 29, 2021

A friend of mine, a master teacher, is fond of an exercise in which she asks her students to briefly study a dime and then, without looking back at it, write down 10 of its features. Most can only recall two or three. Then she asks students to join forces in small groups and, working together, most can now reconstruct the full list. How does this apply to our work at Lever for Change? We’ve learned that working in partnership with others often leads to increased productivity and better outcomes for all.

An image of Dr. Cecilia Conrad smiling.
Credit: Dr. Cecilia Conrad

Our open call competitions encourage cooperation, cross-pollination, and collaboration among social change organizations. We have found that the opportunity for a grant of large size ($10 million or more) provides an incentive for organizations to work together, including some who, in other circumstances, might be competitors. More than half of the finalists named thus far in Lever for Change open calls are partnerships.

Through collaboration, a national or global organization with a strong research and communications infrastructure can act as a convener for a larger coalition, as was the case with Asylum Access and Resourcing Refugee Leadership Initiative, the recipient of the Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award.

The Lone Star Prize recipient, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, borrowed a technique pioneered in India to reduce depression in communities in Texas that lack mental health professionals. And, in one last example, the Renewable Thermal Collaborative, recipient of the 2030 Climate Challenge award, brought together a coalition of energy buyers, sellers and service providers to accelerate the renewable energy market.

Donors too can benefit from collaboration. Donors can jointly design and co-sponsor an open call for a single grant or for multiple grants. They can share the administrative costs of the open call and individually reap the benefits of the rigorous evaluation and due diligence processes. Our team supplies the project management to ease the burden of coordination. The evaluation panel mitigates the risk of arriving at decisions that no one loves, but no one hates—the lowest common denominator. Donors can choose how much or how little they wish to coordinate the final decision about grantees. Each donor can choose its own awardee or donors might pool their funds and jointly determine the grant recipients, as did Melinda French Gates, Stacey Schusterman, and MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett for today’s Equality Can’t Wait Challenge awards announcement.

The Larsen Lam ICONIQ Impact Award for refugees offers an illustration of how we can leverage partnerships to unlock philanthropic capital for social change. After the finalists received technical assistance and submitted revised proposals, the lead donors shared that information with other donors and successfully raised a total of $24.25 in funding to distribute to all five finalists. They more than doubled the original award commitment.

Another opportunity for donors to collaborate is through our Bold Solutions Network. Every Lever for Change open call generates more exciting opportunities for social impact than a single donor (or even three donors, as in the Equality Can’t Wait Challenge) will fund. The Bold Solutions Network is a repository of those opportunities. By selecting a highly rated project from the Bold Solutions Network, a donor can take advantage of the rigorous evaluation and due diligence processes that have already taken place.

We welcome partners in all aspects of our work and invite donors to choose a highly rated project to support or make a gift to support Lever for Change’s ongoing work to accelerate large-scale social change around the world. Interested donors may contact my colleague, Dana Rice, Vice President of Philanthropy.

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