Partnerships hold the key to sustainable development

“A purposeful partnership that will change the lives of many” is how someone described the flagship connected Ekocenter initiative during my first visit to the site in Ruhunda, a small village in the region of Eastern Province in Rwanda. It truly was awe inspiring to see what had been achieved by the teams from seven partner organizations, working together towards a common goal.

Partnerships hold the key to sustainable development

Together, we had connected a community of 25,000 people to purified water, improved medical services, the internet along with its inherent benefits, electricity, and as a result, to the only fully lit football field outside Rwanda’s capital of Kigali. Altogether an amazing and heart-warming achievement!

As an organization, we are clear and quite vocal on our stance regarding the importance of partnerships such as this in our universal quest to secure sustainable socio-economic growth. In principle, where organizations have aligned values, and an agreed goal (or objectives) they should be fairly straight forward to set up and execute. Alas, in the real world even aligned organizations must overcome a vast array of internal and external pressures and interests that have a way of derailing, and/or delaying even the most honorable of initiatives.

Partnerships on the scale of this particular project are rare. The relinquishment of some control (over outcomes) is inherent to collaborative endeavors, which is an uncomfortable concept for individuals; let alone organizations. Most of what is written about collaboration is positive; however the challenges are also well documented. Key among these are; cementing the group vision and outlining agreed deliverables with clear expectations of each partner, creating an effective engagement model that establishes roles and responsibilities, and establishing resource and change management processes.

Despite the difficulties, it remains imperative that we find ways to continue to work together across multiple industries and sectors. Utilizing the learnings from collaborative partner projects like this to do more to continue making a difference in communities in which we operate, by unlocking access to more specialized resources.

So much can be accomplished through efforts like the Ekocenter. Businesses share a common context in the markets we operate in. It is in everyone’s interest that these communities are places of significant promise and possibility. Often our short term interests can obscure the broader common purpose. This conflict is not an easy one for companies to push past. However, our experience suggests that we all need to humble ourselves by increasingly taking part in these types of collaborations.

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