Why Cross-Sector Collaborations Keep Going Wrong (& How To Fix It)

Collaboration is as vital as it is complicated.

Why It Matters

Foundations must work with other sectors to find solutions to the biggest issues facing us today. But collaboration is notoriously difficult. We explore some of the biggest risks, and how foundations can avoid them. This article is the second of a three-part series exploring the future of philanthropy in partnership with Philanthropic Foundations Canada.

In 2004, four large foundations in Africa decided to pool their funds to deliver a bigger development program. With shared aspirations, the funders (who remain anonymous) and cross-sector partners hoped to multiply their impact by working together.

The project soon unravelled. Delays in decision-making, mistrust of partners, and insufficient time committed by staff members were a few reasons why the program eventually went nowhere. 

“Collaboration is more complex than it first appears,” said Rick James, Principal Consultant at the development non-profit INTRAC, who has written about this collaboration. 

“They realized how different they were as organizations,” he said — making cooperation especially


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