Female Factory Engineer Taking Notes While Standing Near the Heavy Machinery
Image: Gcshutter /iStock

How to collaborate with companies? Start with these 5 advices

Collaboration between NGOs and companies can be highly fruitful for both parties. We asked two experts for 5 tips for development NGOs. Here is how Pasi Aaltonen from the Finnish Church Aid and Reeta Partanen from the Save the Children Finland answered.

1. Assess your own needs

Who would you like to work with and on what level?  These are important questions when you are starting to seek partners in the private sector. Your values should match and collaboration should serve your goals. Also, think about what you are looking for: are you searching for a sponsor or a more strategic partnership? Further, ponder about who would be the right partner in each situation: start-ups might be skilled in developing innovations whereas large corporations might be in a more secure financial situation. Plus, if you happen to spot a company that you would like to work with, send them a message!

2. Find a common objective

Is there a common goal you both want to achieve? This is the base of any strategic NGO-corporate partnership. First, you need to crystallize what your objectives are and then compare how they relate to your partner’s goals. In the best-case scenario, everyone wins. For instance, the development NGO will get a solution that helps the most vulnerable groups whereas the company gains a product that can be scaled also to wider audiences or to larger distributors.

3. Understand how your partner operates

If you understand the main logic of a business, it is also easier to understand your partner’s viewpoints and strategic objectives. Thus, it is also easier to find solutions that fit everyone’s needs. This also helps you to understand how you can support your partner. For instance, you might be able to provide key insights about the local realities which help your partner to improve their business model. And vice-versa, you can try to help your partner to understand the logic of civil society. Start by checking out the C&E Corporate-NGO Partnerships Barometer that assesses the motivations, drivers and enablers for Corporate-NGO partnering.

4. Commit to the partnership

Both parties need to commit. In the worst-case scenario, your partner might pull out during the project. Therefore, you should make contracts where both parties agree on their tasks and responsibilities. Further, both parties should optimally involve more than one person in the project if possible. Thus, if there are any changes in personnel, the project can still carry on.

5. Aim for a confidential relationship

A confidential and open relationship allows both parties to speak up if they are worried about something – this leads to a situation where challenges can be tackled together efficiently. Communicating openly also helps in avoiding big surprises during the collaboration. To put it simply, both parties should be able to discuss openly about their hopes and fears.  If you have partners who act as sponsors for your work, remember to communicate openly and interactively about your efforts.

Reeta Partanen contributed to the tips 1, 4 & 5 and Pasi Aaltonen to the tips 2,3 & 4.