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NCVO – Release of the Rebalancing the Relationship Report, February 2021



National organisation NCVO recently released the findings from a major project exploring the competition and collaboration between voluntary organisations and social enterprises in relation to the various kinds of services that are delivered to the public.

The Project 

Launched in 2019, in partnership with ACEVO and funded by Lloyds Bank Foundation, the intention of the project was to improve collaboration between charities, particularly those who operate in the delivery of public services. The project also aimed to encourage collaboration between smaller and larger charities.

Although some research for the project took place before the Coronavirus outbreak, the report does recognise the increase of collaboration in response to the pandemic.

Looking at the experiences of competition and collaboration amongst charities, the report itself offers insight and knowledge, providing recommendations as to how charities can improve on the way they work with other organisations.

And through examples and case studies of collaboration between charities, the report sets out five features found within productive and beneficial partnerships:

  • Compete in an ethical and responsible way
  • Demonstrate openness to collaborating with various organisations
  • Explore different ways to support other charities
  • Develop fair and equal partnerships
  • Nurture a collaborative organisational culture and leadership behaviours


Even though the report constructively explores the obstacles (and sometimes negative experience) found by charities collaborating with other organisations, it does show that there is ultimately success and other positive benefits that can be achieved through the collaboration of charities delivering public services, with generous leaders marking a new and different path.

It also explains that charities have shown that, while not easy, collaboration is possible and worthwhile even within a competitive environment, and that collaboration can help charities to deliver better services in the current system, in light of the pandemic and beyond.

And by working together, charities can push for better ways of organising public services.

Emphasising the value of trust within any collaboration (a recommendation explored by part of the Civil Society Futures report), the findings from the project conclude in suggesting aspects that leaders and individuals alike should reflect upon and consider to support a more collaborative approach when working with other groups and organisations:

  • Power - What advantages does your organisation have compared to others, how can you level the playing field, and how can you support organisations led by marginalised groups and communities?
  • Empathy - What are the challenges other organisations of different types and sizes face, what do others do which is better than your organisation and what are the challenges and values that you all have in common?
  • Honesty - What do other organisations, and people who work for them, experience working with you, and how can you make them feel comfortable to have an honest conversation with you?
  • Communication - Do others know you want to work in partnership and how do you approach partnership working?
  • Impact - How are the people you serve supported by other organisations? How can you work with other organisations to centre the people you serve and coproduce services? How can you prioritise impact above organisational interest?

The final report is available to download, or you can view it online at the NCVO website. You can also find useful information to support collaboration on NVCO’s KnowHow portal.



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