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Co-opetition: Assisting Social Service Organisations to Make an Impact?

Last month’s article focused on ‘What is Co-opetition’, Why it is Needed and it’s Advantages.  While this month we focus on the principles and stages of co-opetition.

Principles of Co-opetition

Leveraging co-opetition to develop business strategy requires a thorough assessment of an organisation’s network of players: customers, suppliers and competitors, as well as ‘complementors.’ Complementors are those companies that provide products and services that enhance the value of a firm’s products or services.

In addition, the development of a shared vision and values between the organisations is crucial to successful collaboration.

Factors Needed for Successful Collaboration

Lessons learned

Common interests and goals are critical


Common values and goals allow organisations in a partnership to converse in a similar language and move in the same direction over time.
Right person championing the relationship, at the right timeThe catalyst to start a positive working relationship is often driven by someone in the organisation with an idea and energy to communicate the idea and garner the support within the potential partners
Allow time to establish trust and respect


Trust and respect are established through regular and open communication, and being clear about the motives behind your partnership.
Partnerships evolve organically through personal relationships Successful partnerships where organisations share information and support each other evolve from personal relationships that have time to develop organically.
Formal agreements are helpful


Collaboration is more likely to be sustainable when it occurs in the context of a formal agreement. A formal and transparent agreement will make it easier to resolve potential conflicts or queries.
Expand knowledge of other agencies by sharing skills, ideas and approachesSuccessful partnerships occur when partners have something to offer each other that complements or expands the other organisation’s skills, capacities and activities.
Recognise mutual strengths and gaps


At the start of any partnership, it is important for each organisation to undertake a self-assessment and compare the results with their prospective partners.
Be bold in who you partner with and do not underestimate your valueIf you are a looking for support from a larger organisation, it pays to aim high and seek out organisations that you admire and feel can offer value.

Key Stages of Co-opetition

Successful collaborative working requires investment of time and resources. It also needs to be approached systematically, as without clear goals and careful planning, collaborating organisations risk disagreements, misunderstandings or other problems arising.

1. Identify
Consider the goal you’re trying to achieve and how a collaborative partnership can assist. When considering potential partners, seek out competitors that complement your skills and objectives.
Choose partnerships where you each bring something different to the table. Collaborating with a competitor that is similar – but not one that’s too similar — is the best way to leverage and create win-win relationships.

2. Plan
From the very beginning, you must develop clarity of purpose and articulate, ‘What can we do together that we could not do alone?’ Be clear in what the collaboration is trying to achieve – where practical use objective measures.
Often this means thinking beyond individual projects to whole solutions and big, bold ideas – something new and innovative. Ask ‘where do we want to be’ – begin with the end in mind. Know the gap between the present and what you hope the collaboration will achieve. Identify the changes needed to close the gap.
Take time to build the relationship and make sure you have processes and partnership agreements in place before you undertake joint activities. Draw up shared aims, values, structures and agreements and clearly define what you can do together.
All partners need to agree and adhere to, a set of values that set the standard for how partners will work together. A clear, fair and transparent system for allocating funds and sharing information is also essential.
Sketch out the possible sequencing of activities and timing that might be required. You want to create an explicit framework, including a ‘risk management’ plan that will serve as a collaboration contract. When people know what’s needed, in what form, and by when, they can then tell you whether it’s possible or not, and then you can have a real dialogue about what can be done.

3. Implement

4. Review
Monitor, measure and learn. Review your collaborative experience and use what you’ve learned to prepare a forward strategy. By reviewing trends over time, you can determine where you are having the greatest impact and where you may need to focus more energy.

In July’s ebulletin I’ll be focusing on how you can take the next step towards co-opetition. For further details please feel free contact me – Rosanna Commisso, Home Support & Partnerships Coordinator on