Fostering a Culture of Collaborative Partnership for Innovation
A Case Study of the CECI – WUSC Partnership
There is a critical need for bold and collective action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Unfortunately, far too few partnerships and consortiums succeed. This case study examines the strategies that drive effective partnerships. But more so, it explores the strategies needed to foster a collaborative partnership culture, which was key to the CECI-WUSC partnership’s unparalleled success.
Initiated in 2003 to respond to the challenges and build upon the historical experience of international volunteering for development (V4D) in Canada, CECI and WUSC united to run a new, larger and innovative initiative called the Uniterra program. The partnership was heralded as the first major social innovation among global development actors in over 30 years (Adler, 2007). This partnership was unique because it was not simply transactional in nature – dividing responsibilities according to various sectors of expertise. It is unusual in a consortium to fully integrate operations in order to manage a single program. Furthermore, no other Canadian partnership in the development sector has demonstrated such performance and longevity over 16 years. Indeed, long-term collaborations or partnerships between organizations are difficult to sustain over time.
Our purpose in this case study is to contribute to learning about partnership building within the development sector, and to propose a framework for joint action. The case study attempts to investigate and interrogate the mechanisms that drove collaboration and innovation in the CECI-WUSC partnership. They built on the traditional strategies for effective partnerships as a foundation to create and sustain a culture of collaborative partnership for innovation.
The insights generated in this case study are based on a review of key documents, evaluations and articles written internally and externally about the partnership and its flagship program, Uniterra. The methodology also included 25 internal and six external informant interviews, 30 survey responses and two focus groups composed of Uniterra volunteers, completed in the fall of 2019. Using thematic content analysis, a number of key themes were identified that contributed to the partnership’s success.