As a board member of a local nonprofit, I sometimes get to thinking about the more theoretical aspects of non-profit governance. I’ve recently been thinking again about how nonprofit governance applies to CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) in for-profit organizations and achieving common objectives, or social co-creation.

The thing is that strategic objective alignment in NGO’s and corporations who work together can sometimes be a tricky task that largely is determinate of each party’s strategic goals, wherein those goals while aligning on some level often differ based on the stakeholder principle, I do believe that by offering operational transparency and vision alignment the NGO / Corp. partnership can create more “good” output, than if it relied on status-quo collaboration. So let’s dive into the nitty-gritty.


Social responsibility by the corporation and philanthropic activities propagate good, given, but the synergies that can be created between corporations and NGO’s by far outweigh those of each party operating singularly. However, the underlying problem for each party in finding a partner is largely based on each party’s vision.

When looking to establish partnerships, NGO’s and companies need to enter a process of investigation, identifying those key points that bring both the organization’s vision together.

If for example, Shell would be looking to explore bio-fuels, an NGO in the bio-fuels space is the obvious election, however, organizational and operational culture need also align if processes are to coincide.

Vision Alignment

A partnership where these goals and objectives are aligned will create positively reinforced efficiencies between the organization and the company. Key components towards creating these efficiencies can be established as follows.

  1. Establish a clear vision – Think of the partnership as an internal joint venture with overlapping objectives. Unification or the development of a cooperative project vision will create focus and prevent stakeholder dissension.
  2. Advance mutual objectives – The partnership needs to advance the overall strategic objectives of both parties. If a clear value is not present in the partnership, it will fail.
  3. Create operational synergies – in logistics, processes, operations, et al… monitor, control and augment. If successful, apply to other projects.

By actualizing these key components, the NGO and Corp will involve in “Bond building”, a positive synergistic process that creates a trusting symbiotic relationship to establish the baseline for social co-creation.

Once bond-building happens, the second facilitation process – operational transparency – begins to evolve.

Operational Transparency

Operational transparency is the clear and truthful unabridged communication between the Corp. and NGO, and vice versa. By being truthful and honest in their objectives and projects, synergies increase over time, and the resulting project(s) and/or program(s) will see more efficient execution, will increase in scope, and will create more good, –  ideally, project departments will function as extensions of one another.

However, to achieve operational transparency, each organization must have first aligned vision and been involved in bond building.

The NGO / Corporate Bridge Matrix for Co-Creation

Based on the functional relationships of NGO’s and Corps we want to strive for highly bonded relationships, this means, high vision alignment, and high operational transparency, in this position the parties achieve the highest synergies.  Transferring information freely among themselves, and have the same aligned vision.

Social Co-Creation between NGO (and non for profits) and Corporate

In the second position we have synergetic, where synergies are based on vision, this is where components 1, 2, 3 flourishes and trust is built, the arrow indicates the direction in which the relationship should head.

A non-functional relationship, is one where the parties are either in the “inception” stage or if no synergetic progress has been made, should think of dissolving the partnership, no value is being created.

In the final scenario, prisoner, parities may have disclosed operational transparencies and are in a deeply involved non-functional relationship that creates negative project value and impacts both players negatively.

All in all, social co-creation should be the end result of all NGO and corporate partnerships, as it provides the most value to both.

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