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Collaboration ain’t just about you

I can’t tell you the number of completely one-sided proposals for ‘collaboration’ I’ve seen over the years.

As a Brit, and therefore a self appointed (and no doubt occasionally pompous) guardian of the term irony, I don’t throw the word around lightly.

But it is somewhat ironic that folks who purport to work in the CSR/sustainability field appear often unable to walk in the shoes of others, something we all advocate.

The usual approach for collaboration goes like this:

“Hi, I’m from NGO/company/vendor/academic institution X. I’d really like to speak with you about how we can collaborate together”.

Turn on the sub-text sub-titles and this says:

 “Hi, I’m from NGO/company/vendor/academic institution X. I’d really like to speak with you about how you can help me for free, whilst receiving very little, if anything in return, and with you doing all the work”.

My standard response these days to unsolicited requests for ‘collaboration’ is to say: “Delighted to hear from you, please send us a detailed proposal that is mutually beneficial and we’d be delighted to respond”.

That usually means 95% of people don’t come back again.

What’s important here is that we should all realise that given we advocate collaboration between companies, NGOs and government/others, surely we should be better at it as an ‘industry’?

I don’t know why this is the state of affairs. But perhaps it is one reason why long-lasting business/NGO partnerships are few and far between compared to short term ones.

Why do we find it so hard to walk in the shoes of others? To look at the world from their point of view?

It’s the single most important lesson to learn in corporate responsibility.

Why do we find it so hard?

Here’s some further reading:

Sustainability as a commercial partnerships catalyst

Campaign groups / NGOs: Nine tips on engaging companies

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