Trust is the foundation of every good collaboration
Funding for social issues
Various stakeholders are active in the social field. What benefits does this bring? What can these stakeholders learn from each other? And what should funders have in common in order to ensure their collaboration is a success?
Modern Switzerland has been shaped by the principle of subsidiarity for 150 years. This ‘social contract’ was included in the Federal Constitution of 1848 as a principle that regulates the interaction between the state, the market and civil society, increasing self-determination and individual responsibility. As a result, Switzerland’s political, social and societal model is based on the voluntary involvement of its population.
In Switzerland, volunteering and civil society are not the opposite of the state: instead, they complement it, acting as a corrective and a place for innovation. Although the state is primarily responsible for enforcing the legal basis, the innovative spark for new ideas often lies within civil society, which plays an active part in shaping social change. When acting as its civil society, our country’s inhabitants take a public-spirited, charitable and independently organised approach. They do not act as family members, employees or state employees. Instead, they act as citizens, as members of associations or foundations.
The question as to which people in our society take on which tasks (with the exception of certain core tasks fulfilled by the state) does not have a fixed answer and is asked anew time and again. Often, civil society identifies gaps in the system, takes the initiative and launches an activity that is often taken on by the state after a few years. For example, lunch was often provided for children by women’s associations, but this is now something that is enshrined in law in the canton of Zurich, for example. Alternatively, the public sector can delegate tasks to civil society by means of a performance mandate. Conversely, the market intervenes primarily if it can earn money from something, such as private kindergartens.
Understanding the counterpart’s culture
Often, innovation is driven by civil society. Its members can take risks, act comparatively swiftly and build a pilot project, evaluate it and scale it up. Grant-making foundations are part of civil society. As part of their charitable objectives, they are able to support new initiatives unbureaucratically and enable projects that have not been tested multiple times or institutionalised. However, the public sector always needs a legal basis for its actions and is publicly accountable. It can take fewer risks, which often makes its processes slow and, from the perspective of civil society, somewhat sluggish. However, its mission, its leadership and its tasks differ greatly. Given the complexity of the challenges, the interaction between various stakeholders is not just important, but indispensable. This has a greater chance of success if more knowledge is available about the counterpart’s culture. This is the basis of the oft-cited ‘equal footing’ in collaborations. No matter who works with whom – whether foundations work with each other, with funders, with the state or businesses – knowledge of the role of the counterpart, a respectful understanding of their mission, legitimation and skills enable the added value of the collaboration.
Many funding organisations active in the social sector seek out innovative projects that are at the start of their journey. It is forgotten that social projects often have a longer duration. That is why it is important to also promote consolidation and transformation processes.
New, shared perspectives
Grant-making foundations and organizations should think together about what “funding in the social sector” actually means. On the one hand, by fading out the individual process and looking with fresh eyes at whether the organisation receiving the support actually requires it. Or by looking at what funders can specifically contribute to ensure the supported organisation can act efficiently and effectively, and fulfil its tasks. On the other hand, new joint funding models need to be discussed, such as joint financing (greater leverage) or follow-up financing (where foundations fund individual stages of a project).
For a collaboration to be successful, a common goal, clearly defined roles, reliability, mindful interaction, transparent communication, a focus on impact and, above all, a lot of trust are required. Trust does not happen on its own; it has to be worked on and developed collaboratively time and again. It is an investment in the collaboration that pays off, to everyone’s benefit. Trust is the foundation of every good collaboration, and if this succeeds, it adds a great deal of value for everyone: control is good, but trust is better.