Roundtable: ‘Start-up collaboration with the Third Sector’

Roundtable: ‘Start-up collaboration with the Third Sector’

Event – May 24th, 2019

Last month, DCHI participated in a roundtable discussion hosted by Nesta and Impact Shakers at their offices in London. The primary focus was evaluating why we are not seeing more collaboration for innovation between start-ups and the Third Sector (NGO and non-profit organizations).

The discussion gave a valuable insight into barriers and recognised opportunities experienced by the organisations present, especially when compared to the greater extent of collaboration of this kind in the private sector. The motivation for this round-table was rooted in the recognition that innovation in the Third Sector is necessary, and hugely valuable for cost efficiency and impact. In Nesta’s own words: “Just as innovation is a key driver of private sector productivity, innovations which help these organisations to spend this more effectively, or otherwise achieve more impact, could make a huge difference”.

One of the primary barriers discussed was intersectoral challenges to collaboration: “start-ups and corporates often suffer from a mismatch in goals, timings and expectations, but do at least speak a common language of profit and loss; the cultural gap between start-ups and NGOs which lack such a common frame will invariably be larger”. Other organisations recognised that the Third Sector struggles with problem definition, while start-ups consider it one of their main USPs. Therein lies the common mismatch, and difficulty in continuing a sustainable collaboration that lasts longer than a one-off.

The overall conclusion was that the Third Sector needs to offer greater clarity in their problem articulation. This way, collaboration with start-ups could become more transparent as well as more sustainable for future projects. Above all, the slower feedback loop cycles within the Third Sector could be mitigated, through offering greater clarity for the problem they are solving, and therefore having a clearer scope for success.

We were happy to share that DCHI had already taken this on board, through the DRA DIF 19 call and the specific focus of defining challenges to use for collaborating with external parties. Overall, it was fantastic to hear the extent that collaborations with the Third Sector and innovation was recognised as a highly valuable and worthwhile investment of time and resources.

Nesta and Impact Shakers are interested in exploring this area further, and building a network of like-minded organisations who are interested in participating in research and practical action. Check out their blog from the day for more information.