In advocacy, collaboration is key. In one way or another, just about every help sheet in Our Community's Advocacy Centre has had something to do with collaboration.
Establishing a collaboration not only strengthens your campaign, you're also demonstrating to the community, decision-makers and funders that other stakeholders recognise that there's a need for what you're doing. This can be a powerful asset.
In this helpsheet we take you through some of the advantages and disadvantages of collaborating with other organisations. Please see our other help sheet on how to establish a collaboration for more details on setting up such a collaboration.
The advantages of collaboration are many:
- In a healthy collaboration there's something in it for both parties, whether it's access to skills and resources or just working towards a common aim
- You'll have a broader reach, as all the organisations involved in the collaboration will have different networks and mailing lists to spread the word on - which means that more sectors of the community will hear about your campaign
- You'll gain access to new skills as the various organisations that have these skill sets come on board
- It's a good opportunity to widen your own networks
- If more organisations are involved you'll increase your own credibility
- More and more funding bodies like to see collaborations, so this will certainly work in your favour in grant applications - not to mention the fact that a wide range of costs for the campaign could then be shared
- The other organisations will be able to provide you with in-kind resources
- These sorts of collaborations tend to lead to ongoing relationships, which will help you with future campaigns
Collaborations are generally a good idea, for all the reasons mentioned above. However, there are some circumstances where you at least need to be careful and to put safeguards in place to overcome a few potential problems.
- Collaborations can mean that your campaign moves more slowly, because you need to get consensus or check with the other players regarding every decision - so make sure you have a good understanding of the levels of autonomy that you have.
- You'll be more restricted in what you can do. Certain tactics your group might follow, or positions that your group might ordinarily take, may not be agreed on by other members of your collaboration.
- In-fighting between parties may emerge, and few things could be more damaging to a cause. These squabbles often become public, but even if they don't people in the organisation often finish up acting according to their own micropolitical agendas rather than on the basis of what's good for the campaign.