Crossing Organizational Boundaries to Build New Partnerships: A Series of 5% Shifts

About This Series:
Our research and experience shows that relatively small shifts in service provision can cause ripple effects; raising up constituent voice, fostering community cohesion and increasing engagement in advocacy efforts. This series highlights “5% shifts” – as we are calling them – that don’t rely on organizations completely changing course and reinventing themselves. We lift up shifts that are both simple and achievable, to inspire service providers to adapt what works. These reports are structured to include both conceptual framing based on research and literature in the sector, as well as case studies of on-the-ground experiments initiated by organizations. They also include discussion materials and other resources to help staff and leaders reflect on the case examples and apply the lessons to their own organizations. We hope that organizations will take what is useful, build on their strengths, and exercise judgment and wisdom in tailoring these examples to make “5% shifts” that fit their specific community and organizational contexts.

About This Report:
This report explores partnerships initiated in cities in two different parts of the country that are facing similar social and economic struggles: Detroit and Albuquerque. The economic and political problems of Detroit have received widespread media attention, and many residents grapple with everyday concerns of living in a city with minimal resources. One major issue is summed up in the fact that Detroit has been labeled “a food desert.” Storehouse of Hope, a local food pantry, partnered with a growing urban garden to provide fresh produce to clients. The partnership became a catalyst for new connections, relationships and forays into advocating on other issues impacting clients. Similarly, New Mexico recently fell to last place for child well-being in the 2013 KIDS COUNT Data Book. In Albuquerque (the state’s largest city), three organizations — Encuentro, New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, and Prosperity Works — collaborated to establish an individual lending program to help immigrants in the community get funds they need to pay the various application fees associated with the naturalization and citizenship process. They recognized that each group brought unique areas of expertise that complemented the other partners and leveraged those different strengths to help immigrants pursue their American dreams.

Breaking down the silos between service providers and the barriers between providers, advocates and organizers is critical to knitting together and protecting a strong social safety net that helps individuals in need. Furthermore, fostering collaboration between organizations (and of tentimes even within organizations) can help better identify community level issues that a strong ecosystem of organizations can address together. 

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