Collaboration is the key to innovation

At Impumelelo we believe that one of the most challenging aspects of the nonprofit sector is the fact that too many organisations work in silos. We, therefore, advocate that effective collaboration is the key ingredient to making innovation happen.

Over the years, Impumelelo has offered a platform where organisations have learned how to innovate, push boundaries, and develop new solutions through connecting and sharing best practices and ideas with each other.

Collaboration with someone in the same sector is one thing, but there is something to be said about collaborating across sectors to come up with solutions for deep-seated social problems. As organisations consider how to innovate and solve social problems, some of the most effective ideas come from adopting the strategies or technologies that have created breakthroughs in other sectors. A successful business model from another industry may revolutionize your own.

In a recent PwC survey, 28% of global CEOs indicated an expectation to work with startups and entrepreneurs. This opens up a completely new dimension of possibilities for social entrepreneurs and change agents occupying the social innovation and technology space.

However, the issue is that even though most people agree that collaboration is key, how do we enable innovation-producing collaboration in the nonprofit sector? How do we handle and create massive amounts of innovations as organisations? The key to making that work is to embrace collaboration at all levels and with technology itself.

Collaborating with others has become much easier in the 21st century (you can start today online) and it is key to your innovation success by providing the associations, speed, connections, and energy necessary for implementation. If there is no implementation, there is no innovation.

  1. An innovative solution is often a combination of ideas, from conception to delivery. Collaboration increases the chances of ASSOCIATIONS between ideas that result in an innovative combination. When more people are involved, larger numbers of associations are generated from different perspectives. The configuration of ideas will most likely lead to innovative solutions that represent just what is needed to solve a complex social problem.
  2. SPEED is a great competitive advantage, so if you want to deliver something fresh, speed is crucial to delivering innovation before others do. Having open-minded people around you can quickly validate whether the idea will have merit and help build upon that idea.
  3. Successful innovation involves more than a great idea, it needs CONNECTIONS. Even if it’s groundbreaking, you need to promote the idea so that others adopt or buy into it. You need great people to help execute the idea and collaboration with others expands your social circle of connections to make things happen.
  4. Teams provide ENERGY and help overcome the expected resistance as new ideas are often borne into a hostile environment and a team of people can provide the support to push through the hierarchies. If you are employed, good ideas not invented by management can be seen as a threat, thus, having a group helps push through the expected resistance and doubt. Team feedback can also provide energy to keep each other going through periods of unknown outcomes.
  5. Collaboration helps ideas reach IMPLEMENTATION, as there are a million good ideas floating around in the creative genius of the world that will never get implemented because most people are tied to their paychecks and family obligations and can’t afford the risk. All of the aforementioned reasons contribute to helping an innovative solution reach implementation.
  6. Collaboration TECHNOLOGY (, Trello, Google Hangouts, Asana, and Slack) help us work better together by becoming more “virtual” in our approach to collaboration and innovation, by allowing organisations to work remotely in a productive manner. Working in this manner is also cost-effective as it cuts down on workforce and traveling expenses and allows for work-from-home and flex-time policies.

While we are on the verge of the 4th Industrial Revolution, blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and cryptocurrencies are all being used for good in the nonprofit arena. Collaboration allows us to stay on top of the latest tools, applications, and innovations. As a “connector across sectors,” TechSoup Global, for example, seeks to create an infrastructure for nonprofits to stay informed on how to use technology to increase their social impact. Through their online platform, NGO members in Africa, the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East share ideas on how to solve social issues and become agents of global change.

While collaboration is key to innovation, convergent thinking is still a risk. The best way to overcome this is to incorporate diversity into the group and to let individuals do a combination of individual and group work.

However, collaboration is more than technological tools and it’s more than a cultural willingness to work together to come up with new ideas. You need both. And when you combine them, you unlock tremendous power. Now is the time to start turning that key.

If you are interested in collaborating with our multi-sector, award-winning innovations, and us, contact us now. We are your partner in innovation.