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Partnering to Drive Innovation and Experimentation during the Pandemic: Turning Crisis into Opportunity

Partnering to Drive Innovation and Experimentation during the Pandemic: Turning Crisis into Opportunity

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As the world around us evolves, we must make sure we are changing in tandem to effectively bring about the changes we would like to see in it. This is something that nonprofits and corporations alike have come to realize in the past year and a half, and continue to work towards achieving on a larger scale.

Wake Up Call: Navigating New Pathways for Corporate Community Investment in Canada” was released in 2020 as a response to the Canadian corporate community stepping up to take an increasingly flexible and ‘more-than-money' approach to supporting causes and organizations. Building upon “Wake Up Call” to take engagement during the pandemic to the next level, this year Imagine Canada published “Partnering for Impact: From Crisis to Opportunity.” This latest study exemplifies how the flexibility shown by nonprofits, companies, and government entities in the past year has created innovative opportunities to best serve the needs of their communities. 

The new report contains 9 case studies that provide insights into how corporations and nonprofit organizations in Canada were able to reach unprecedented growth and/or critical impact despite the hardships created by the pandemic. Three of these case studies stood out as great examples of the central theme in the report because of their focus on innovation and experimentation through developing partnerships, making long-term commitments, and building digital infrastructure to make an impact across the globe. Below is a review of the report’s key takeaways. 

Building Tri-Sector Partnerships – Case Study #2

Rome wasn’t built in a day and the job certainly wasn’t done alone. The same goes for our global social good community. When addressing global problems such as homelessness or food insecurity, the need for organizations to collaborate with one another is crucial. When WoodGreen Community Services set out to add 34 new affordable housing units to a 346-unit building, they partnered with Daniels Corporation, Sun Life Financial, and the City of Toronto in order to do so. A project of this scale was projected to take 4 years to complete, however this group of private, public and nonprofit partners worked together, leveraging each other’s skills to build the units in less than a year. They harnessed the expertise of each sector in order to make a small step towards achieving a bigger impact. 

Long-Term Commitments – Case Study #6

In order to drive sustainable change, partnerships must be given time to grow and flourish. It’s important to recognize that any real, meaningful advancements in changing systemic issues will not come about instantaneously. This is why AstraZeneca provides funding and develops commitments with organizations for 5-year periods. They believe this shows a deeper, more honest level of commitment to their partners. This may also play a large part in contributing to their success in helping reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases for young people in more than 30 countries through their Young Health Programme. Long-term commitment drives long-term impact, and provides a continuous way for employees to participate, give back, and volunteer knowing that they are giving towards the power of collective impact.

Digital Infrastructure – Case Study #8

As our civilization progresses further into the Information Age, digital infrastructure can no longer be considered a luxury for nonprofits, but is instead a necessity for fulfilling their missions. Second Harvest understood the role digital infrastructure can play in making connections and solving problems. They created a Food Rescue App that connected more than 2,500 businesses with surplus food to more than 2,300 nonprofits that needed it. They also used the platform to distribute $11.2 million in federal government funding to more than 500 frontline organizations and to distribute $6.3 million in Loblaws grocery cards. Prioritizing the development of a technology that could facilitate making these connections between resources and the nonprofit organizations serving communities played a critical role in the collective impact Second Harvest achieved.

Lessons for the Social Good Community 

By focusing on building partnerships, making long-term commitments, and constructing a better digital infrastructure, these leaders of change were not only able to survive the drastic obstacles encountered in the past year, but also thrive. They leveraged each other’s strengths, built the appropriate tools, and made meaningful commitments to help put together impactful solutions to drive purposeful change. This flexibility and openness to innovation helped them reach unprecedented growth and impact and will continue to support them as we cross new frontiers in building diverse and sustainable communities. Each of the nine case studies have their own lessons that have incredible value no matter where you are in the social good space.


Guest contributions represent the personal opinions and insights of the authors and may not reflect the views or opinions of Imagine Canada.

Blackbaud is the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good. Learn more about YourCause powered by Blackbaud and the solutions for corporate social responsibility.

Junaid is a qualified business development representative who studied Environmental Management at the University of Toronto. He is passionate about the people in his communities and helping Canadian companies expand their corporate social responsibility efforts. He has been working with the YourCause team for 2 years and enjoys lending his skills and experiences to power Blackbaud's mission to drive impact for social good.

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