It is basically a rite of passage to be the hungry (multiple meanings intended) entrepreneur who is struggling to take their idea, business, or product to the next level, tolling until they get their big break or fail. For social entrepreneurs, even after the big break, the struggle does not necessarily end. With many social organizations choosing to be classified as nonprofits they often marry into a formidable funding cycle where they are dependent on monetary donations and grants in order to be able to continue providing their services. In addition, they are reliant on volunteers donating their time and other in-kind services to supplement their budget. At DC Social Innovation’s panel on how social projects are working to give new skills and certifications to the unemployed/underemployed, one of the main challenges the nonprofit organizations cited was the need for resources.
From the need to provide clients with internet access outside of their programs to simply the need for space for volunteers and mentors to meet, the sentiments were that through better collaboration amongst DC stakeholders much more social good could be achieved.
So what can the major stakeholders due to foster or initiate collaboration?
- DC Local Government- What resource does DC local government not have access to? From space via schools and recreation centers to having an award winning technology agency, by simply providing access to these resources it turns into a win-win situation for DC Government as nonprofits do the laser-focused community development and support work that sometimes larger agencies struggle to do.
- Grantors- It is not unusual to see nonprofits steering clear from organizations with similar missions, because at the end of the day they are competing for the same resources such as grants and volunteers. Grantors can entice organizations to work together by providing grant and funding opportunities that value collaboration amongst like-minded organizations.
- Nonprofit Community-Be open to new models. Who says that donations and grants are the only way to support your organization. What about a sponsorship model? Perhaps consider providing a service to another nonprofit in exchange for one of theirs.
- Startup Community- Expand your definition of innovation. Over the past few years, DC has certainly established itself as a hub of technology innovation, but for the realm of social services, innovation comes in many different forms such as teaching tech skills or piloting innovative social programs. What about incubators and accelerators for other forms of innovation?
With all of the existing resources and opportunities in DC there is no reason that DC can not serve as the model ecosystem of not just social innovation, but social collaboration.