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May 8, 2023

More Collaboration

To create more collaboration,
stop competing

In this week’s Systems Change Newsletter…

  • Invitations & Announcements  
  • Catalytic Thinking Exercise: To stop competition between organizations, stop competing!

Invitations & Announcements:

Attention Planners and Facilitators!
The final webinar in our series with PANO (Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations) is all about Community Impact Planning – a more effective alternative to traditional strategic planning, based on Catalytic Thinking.

Unlike strategic planning, with its origins in the military and business realms, Community Impact Planning was designed specifically for the work of social change - creating long-term, systemic change in communities. We are excited to share this with you! Find out more…

Catalytic Thinking Exercise:
To stop competition between organizations, stop competing!

Oh how we all lament the competition in the community benefit arena - having to compete with the very people we wish we could more closely collaborate with.

  • Organizational leaders watch their words around partners, fearing they might steal ideas, donors, volunteers.
  • Funders complain about organizations competing vs. collaborating, even as funders are the ones creating that competition.

We all know that the only way change will happen is if we are all on the same team, pulling in the same direction. We all want the forced competition to stop.

And yet we treat competition like the weather – something we complain about but have no control over.

Here’s the thing:

We DO have control over the competition in our sector.

Any leader of any organization – foundations, nonprofits, social enterprises – can take steps to reduce the level of competition we face.

And here’s how:

To stop the competition between organizations, we simply need to stop competing.

We can stop participating in systems that are rigged against us. We can take a different path.

Try this:

One of the key questions in marketing is one we've all been asked so often in the community benefit world: How to differentiate your work from your competition.

- Who is your competition?
- How are you different from them? What makes you special?
- Why should someone support you and not your competition?

Here is how we answer those standard marketing questions at Creating the Future:

We don’t have competition. It’s not because we see ourselves as special, but because we don’t see organizations doing similar work as competitors; we see them as potential partners.

We don’t want to know how we’re different from them; we want to know where we are similar, so that we can find ways to work together.

This week’s exercise is therefore to do just that:

Instead of seeing other organizations as competition, image them as potential partners.

- What would you be looking for in a partner?
- What areas of similarity would you be seeking?
- What would it take to know if another organization is a potential partner?

Then start looking at your "competition" through that lens. Here are just some ideas for first steps.

If we’re going to build trust to work together, first we would need to know each other. That could be as simple as having coffee or a glass of wine together. If you don’t already know each other, make it a getting-to-know-you session. If you do already know each other, perhaps being direct: “I’ve been wondering about ways our two organizations might benefit each other. Are you up for having a glass of wine to explore a bit?”

Or you might visit each other’s facilities.

“This is how we do X. How do you handle that?”

Or perhaps it might be about sharing resources via Collective Enoughness.

“You need X? We have plenty! Let’s find a way to share…”

Once you’ve built some trust, you can take the BIG step: Agree that you will only seek funding from foundations or donors TOGETHER. That you will simply refuse to take part in a system that guarantees minimal impact.

Change can only happen when we are all working together. When we decide that we will no longer compete, that we will only work together, we find ways to do so. That is why “together” is at the core of so much of Catalytic Thinking.

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eJournal Archives:
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Creating the Future's Mission
Teach people how to change the systems they find themselves in,
to create a future different from our past -
all by changing the questions they ask.

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