A little while ago I had a conversation with a colleague about collaboration in nonprofits.
"You NEED to collaborate," she said, "for survival. You won't make it if you don't."
On one level I think this is true. Anymore, it's hard to get funding if you try to go it alone--funders won't even look at your application. So you have to at least LOOK like you're collaborating, or you probably will die a slow, painful death.
But is it real collaboration or is it just collaboration on paper?
Is it collaboration to have several different agencies apply together for a grant, only to turn around and each do their own thing once the money's rolling in? Is it collaboration when customers have to give the same information to three different organizations, even though those agencies are supposedly in the same collaborative? Are we collaborating when each organization's success is measured in different ways so that we end up "poaching clients" to boost our own numbers?
It may be the nature of the work that I do and the types of organizations with whom I tend to work, but from what I've seen, in a lot of cases we're only calling it collaboration and we're still able to get by. So I have to wonder--is true collaboration really going to be necessary for survival or will the paper version keep us going for awhile longer?