The Wind in Our Sails: The Importance of (Co)Operational Funding

January 10, 2020 4:45 PM | Anonymous

In our daily work lives, our time is compensated through organizational budgets, which trickle down through traditional structures to our job descriptions and paycheques. But what happens when the opportunity for meaningful social change and meeting our mission requires us to go ‘outside’ traditional organizational processes and structures? 

Like most organizations, nonprofits are funded to achieve their particular mission, but this basic structure rarely allows for time to be spent ‘outside the lines’ of the programs we deliver and limits the opportunity for collaborative work across organizations or sectors. The time required to participate in – let alone lead or manage – an inter-organizational collaborative process is simply not in scope.

And, unfortunately, our traditional, organizationally-bounded program and service delivery methods are simply not sufficient to solve the larger, systemic issues facing our society.

Our societal challenges are a result of a complex variety of factors and actual system change is not straight-forward or simple. True change and progress requires high-quality, inter-organizational collaboration. This process is not for the faint of heart.  

Real Change Requires Collaboration; Successful Collaboration Requires Funding

Collaborative work requires resources. Whether the collaboration is inside an exiting organization or between organizations – time and energy are required for getting things done with other human beings. Resources need to be put towards organization, management capacity, leadership, processes, communication and engagement. With networks such as ABNN, the time and energy are contributed by our participants and stewards, but also critical is co-operational funding.

Co-operative funding dollars are used to support a collaborative culture so that the behaviours and identities of the organizations become more collaborative over time. Co-operative funding may also be used to bolster support work, such as administration, communications or project management. Co-operational funding is the wind in the sails of the collaborative approach.

To be clear – co-operative funding does not require a huge bureaucracy. Co-operative funding should be lean – focused on enabling collaborative habits, designing high-quality collaborative processes, ensuring nimble and effective management, and creating time and spaces for the people involved to work together. It’s about creating the opportunity to understand the system we are working within and co-creating opportunities for collective action. This is the space where ABNN is working - seeking to understand and respond to the province-wide systemic issues that impact our sector.

By no means does this idea de-value the importance of program and service delivery for enhancing quality of life and well-being, but in today’s complex world, collaborative work – pulling ourselves up and out of our organizational identities – is required to truly tackle some of the underlying issues. Co-operational funding enhances the tangible program and service delivery ‘outcomes’ we are so used to seeing by investing in the health and progress of the connective tissue within our systems. 

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