A code for collaboration

Posted 27 Nov 2019 | Blog | Collaboration | Digital

We started a conversation about collaboration two years ago, and have taken some positive steps since then, such as working with other charities in our space, and trialling the Pilotlight Programme with charities which are in the process of merging, or building consortia. We’ve learned that these things take time and have grappled with keeping collaboration, which doesn’t have often tangible, short-term gains, constantly on the agenda.

Firmly on the agenda for us this year has been all things digital. We have accomplished a good amount so far in both thinking and doing. We initially formed a Digital Working Group with the remit 'to ensure Pilotlight adopts a digital culture, and continues to explore the use of digital channels in pursuit of our strategic objectives'. Making a statement of intent was important and demonstrating to the staff team and the Board that making digital a key priority has been useful in keeping us on track throughout the year. We ran our first webinar, with some trepidation, aiming to describe our journey for the benefit of those stepping into digital. We then did a second one, as part of Digital Leader’s Insight Live Week, with updates on our progress.

One thing that helped shape our thinking about the journey of digital transformation and has served as a useful reference point has been The Charity Digital Code of Practice, first published at this time last year. There is a list of seven principles in the code and over the past year it has been useful in a number of ways. We used it as a reference point when shaping our approach and chunking our ideas and workflows around strategy, data/technology and culture. As a one page checklist, it has been regularly included with Board papers which helps keep it on the agenda.

This has made me think that a similar approach to collaboration might bring more focus and that a set of principles could be a useful next step. On reflection, replacing 'digital' with 'collaboration' in the seven principles of the Digital Code could be a good place to start!

1. Leadership

Charity leaders must lead on (digital) collaboration as a way of helping their charities be relevant and sustainable.

(Digital) Collaboration isn’t just about channels. It’s a strategic and governance issue and charity leaders need to know how (digital) collaboration could help realise their vision for their charity. Equally, (digital) collaboration raises questions about traditional ways of leading, offering opportunities for leaders to build networks and collaborate further.

2. User led

Charities should make the needs and behaviours of beneficiaries and other stakeholders the starting point for everything they do (digitally) collaboratively.

3. Culture

Charities' values, behaviours and ways of working should create the right environment for (digital) collaborative success.

4. Strategy

Charities' strategies should be ambitious about how they can use (digital) collaboration to achieve their vision and mission.

This doesn’t always mean investing money, but it does mean thinking creatively about how (digital) collaboration can increase impact and sustainability.

5. Skills

Charities should aim for (digital) collaborative (skills) working to be represented at all levels of the organisation.

(Digital) Collaborative success is very dependent on the confidence, motivation and attitude of the people who run, work and volunteer for charities. Technical and soft skills, such as questioning, persuading and influencing, are equally important.

6. Managing risk and ethics

Charities need to determine and manage any risks involved in (digital) collaboration.

Charities will also need to consider how some (digital) collaborative issues fit with organisational values and ethics. The latter is a broad area that may include anything from partnerships to the use of data by social networks to content.

7. Adaptability

Charities will need to adapt to survive and thrive as (digital) collaboration changes how everyone lives and works.

The theme of collaboration is captured in Pilotlight’s vision – of charities and business working together to achieve positive social change. Harnessing the power and potential of collaboration is a key driver for us and using a framework as an impetus/guideline/checklist will, I hope, allow us to move forward with this in 2020.