The Urgency of Collaboration in the Social Impact Space

Over the past two years we have seen a significant shift in the South African social 
impact space towards greater collaboration and partnerships.  
With businesses decreasing their social investment spend and rising social economic 
needs, many nonprofit organisations have had to find allies to help them reach common 
goals together. 
Trialogue’s 2021 research reports that the total estimated CSI expenditure in 2021 was 
R10.3 billion – a 4% decrease from the R10.7 billion in 2020. 
According to research done by Nation Builder, nonprofits, the private sector, and 
government have been collaborating more than ever, trying to find innovative ways to do 
more with less. 
What is exciting to see, is that the collaboration has shifted from merely being a survival 
tactic, to becoming a critical element to ensure sustainability and inclusiveness in the 
social impact space. 
There are countless benefits for nonprofits to collaborate with other entities, such as 
horizontal learning opportunities, capacity building, resource sharing, avoiding 
duplication of efforts, solving challenges in a more holistic way, and of course saving 
A Co-Working Space Specifically for Social Impact  
At the end of 2020, like-minded social impact leaders shared a vision to collaborate in a more practical way, and launched Vuka – a social impact co-working space in Paarl in the Western Cape. 
The space is currently shared between Valcare (social investment managers), Inceba Trust (Early Childhood Development organisation), Labit (a social entrepreneurship incubator) and Fleet (a local community-minded coffee brand), with more nonprofits booking the hot desks, boardroom and working spaces on-demand. 
Combined, these organisations save well over R300 000 per year by sharing the office space and other expenses like printers, internet access, coffee, a cleaner and a receptionist.    
Besides cost savings, the tenants buy into the greater vision by sharing their ideas, consulting where needed, assisting one another with problem-solving, and speaking at one anothers’ training events. 
Pooled Social Investments for Greater Impact 
Many community projects require significant funding and there aren’t many CSI budgets 
that can allocate millions to a single capex project. This creates an apt opportunity for 
social investors to break down the silos and take hands for the sake of a greater cause. 
Valcare recently assisted with the building of a new facility for Good Hope Day Care 
Centre for special needs children in Mbekweni in the Western Cape. A total of eight 
funders joined forces to contribute more than R1.1 million needed to make the dream 
a reality. 
Multiple other role-players were involved too; including community leaders, local 
tradesmen, volunteers, government and other nonprofits. Today, more than 20 vulnerable children with special nees have the opportunity to 
reach their full potential thanks to the contributions (big and small) of literally hundreds 
of people. 
Collaboration Exposes Child Trafficking Syndicate 
To empower nonprofit organisations to be as effective as possible, Valcare facilitates a membership network with more than 250 organisations in the Cape Winelands. 
To enhance the collaboration amongst nonprofit organisations with similar goals, Valcare created platforms for small groups to gather around specific social impact themes, like Child Protection, Ethics, Food and Nutrition, Women Empowerment, Job Readiness and Skills Development, Sport and Recreation as well as Education Support. 
Multiple stories of change have come out of these initiatives since they were initiated. A noteworthy breakthrough happened during one of the Child Protection Coordinated Effort meetings, when leaders from organisations started sharing information about the prevalence of child abuse in the Drakenstein area. They recognised a pattern, and uncovered and exposed a child trafficking syndicate which led to several arrests and safer communities for children.  
One of the participants of the Education Support Coordinated Effort, Leopold van 
Velden, the CEO of Thuma Mina Teaching, also confirms that collaborating with other 
organisations in this way, has led to new opportunities for them, enlarging everyone’s 
footprint in the community. 
The only way forward for South Africa 
This might sound candid, but there is absolutely no way that we can make a sustainable 
social impact in South Africa if we continue in our own separate lanes, trying to make a 
difference in our own way. 
There has never been a more pressing time to break down the walls of ownership, 
protectiveness and entitlement; and join forces to create holistic change together.  
We have not grown tired of hearing the old African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go 
alone; but if you want to go far, go together”, and it’s for good reason – the statement is 
unequivocally true and the only way forward for the social impact space to survive.