As we know, the world is currently dominated by huge corporations and it is becoming more and more difficult to squeeze into the market especially as a freshly established startup or small business. Consumers tend to fall into the same purchasing decisions that heavily rely on trust and recognition, that the corporate giants had the luxury of acquiring over the past decades. However, the change is coming in the form of sustainability. We are currently witnessing a drastic shift or at least the attempts of it all throughout the markets. It’s not enough to not do any harm, now is the time to start doing good. So what exactly does this mean?
“Social impact bonds increase the opportunity for social policy to evolve because they are designed to raise private money to support programs and services that advance the public good and help move the government towards outcome-based contracts.” – states Linda Gibbs, deputy mayor of New York City.
Impact startups focusing on keeping the balance between the financial benefit and social responsibility are on a rise for a reason. They are part of the businesses that are making an attempt to improve the segment of the market. Greenwashing is a common trend that we are seeing now among the huge corporations. The change seems to be present through the loud marketing messages, however the entire operational process remains the same. This is where the concept of impact partnerships becomes especially important as it introduces better opportunities to the already existing organizations. Becoming more sustainable does not mean having to dismiss and reorganize the entire structure – instead taking small steps in the right direction. Impact startups partnering up with corporations can have a chance of getting the funding and the necessary support needed from an established player in the market, whereas in return they get to follow through with the concept of improving the social impact.
“Impact partnerships are a specific type of multi-sector partnership, designed to create clear and meaningful impact towards a social or environmental goal. The partnerships set clear outcomes, have a transparent division of labour, they have a mechanism for taking stock, adapting and learning. As an innovation method, the central goal of an impact partnership is to scale current effective activity in a given area through the power of cross-sector collaboration, or to generate new ideas and solutions with measurable impact delivered across sectors.” – Nesta.
HOW TO CREATE AN IMPACT PARTNERSHIP IN 4 STEPS
1. Discovery and design
This includes rapidly researching the problem to be tackled and defining the key challenges. This involves key stakeholders from across sectors through workshops and research and mapping the current system. What is the problem that really needs solving? Where do existing solutions fall short? What funding or resources might be needed? What are the assets that each organisation can bring to the table? In this stage, there is a formal orchestration of evidence so everyone has a shared understanding of ‘what works’.
2. Engage and establish
This stage involves curating the right ecosystem around the problem, including business, government, civil society, social innovators and citizens. This could include putting out an open call for innovators looking for support to address the issue in question, or assembling a ‘leadership group’ of individuals from across the different sectors. At this stage clear outcomes are adopted, a process of measurement and taking stock is developed and a clear process for learning is generated. This step also includes creating the right environment, language and culture for change where all parties:
- agree on shared rules of engagement
- identify and activate high-potential, multi-sector partnerships within the ecosystem, with the potential to scale
- set clear objectives for each partnership and create a plan for scaling each project
3. Deliver and implement
This is a time-bound period where projects are executed. The partners remain engaged through structured collaboration platforms both online and offline through working groups. Throughout this process when activities are not working or need to iterate, the group supports each other to do that.
4. Amplify and learn
This stage involves demonstrating and amplifying the best projects and solutions with a direct link to policymaking. Lessons learned are shared in an open way. Events and activities highlight the success and learning in order to bring new people into future partnerships.”