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.

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