The power of collaboration

In 2015, world leaders adopted the bold and transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the United Nations. Before that, they had been working on realizing the 8 Millennium Development Goals. Taking sustainable development one step further, the new Agenda called on countries to begin efforts to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the next 15 years. At that time, we at Women on Wings were very happy to see that ‘partnership’ was granted its own SDG. World leaders considered it key to realizing all other 16 SDGs.

Since our inception, Women on Wings promotes and continuously looks for partnerships. We always have had a strong believe that within the development sector, there is no competition. We all aim for the same, so why not join forces and collaborate. Over the years, we have seen too often that NGOs are being managed by EGOs. And when the ego of the person in charge takes over the passion to bring about change, it may bring the person many awards, but it will not bring much result to the NGOs development targets.

At Women on Wings, we promote and facilitate collaboration and partnerships with and among our partners. We don’t have clients, we don’t come and scan an organization for writing a huge report and leave. We do it because we need to get to understand the organization we aim to partner with. We aim for long-term partnerships, because change does not happen overnight. We build trust, making sure that we have no other agenda than scaling social enterprises sustainably so they can employ more rural women.

As we witnessed that many partners faced similar challenges, and many founders/CEOs experienced that it can be lonely at the top, we started organizing Summits in which we brought together social enterprises and business experts to brainstorm on certain topics, share experiences and jointly look for solutions. In 2012 we organized our first Summit and we are now planning our 18th on March 12. Our partners share positive feedback and see the added value of peer to peer learning.

We have gone one step further to facilitate peer to peer learning and match making between partners. In the past we had made the connect quite often if one partner sourced for something that another partner could provide. Like yarn, natural dyes, or chickpeas. Last year we introduced our online community platform. By bringing all our partners together at this platform, we have improved the facilitation of match making and supply & demand. We are extremely pleased to see that partners do find each other. Some discuss online, exchange raw materials, or sell their products on other partners’ online shops. Others actually travel to witness how another partner works with clusters. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, we witnessed the need for sharing and connecting. The platform also gave us the opportunity to share information about (Governmental) schemes and COVID-19 funding and relief programs.

Now don’t expect us to sit back and relax. We are always looking ahead, trying to make us and our partners better and more successful. So that we increase our impact and improve the livelihoods of more rural women and their families. Sales should be at the center of our partners’ strategy to become better and more successful. Always, but especially now. So Sales will be on the agenda of our upcoming CEO Summit, March 12. This period of crisis has also demonstrated to many of us, the importance of effective collaboration as a means of survival for businesses and the communities we work with. Building and managing successful collaborations will also be on the agenda in this summit.

On a higher level, countries are also collaborating. In 2018, the King and Queen of the Netherlands visited India, followed by a trade mission which aimed at boosting the B2B partnerships between the two countries to progress sustainability and inclusivity. Women on Wings was part of that trade mission.
This year, the World Economic Forum wrote why 2021 can and should be the year for breakthrough collaboration. I can only applaud that collaboration is seen as top priority to realize a more inclusive, cohesive and sustainable future as soon as possible in 2021.

But not just when it is COVID-19 related. Collaboration is key to bring about change. Always. At every level. If we collaborate, we hold the power to create a better future. For the next generation.

Shilpa Mittal Singh
joint managing director Women on Wings