Describe Your Unique Role in Collaborative Efforts

fabric threads[Dalya’s Note: This is an excerpt from my award-winning book, Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact.]

You may recall my post about the value of collaboration. Today I want to talk about the importance of carving out a unique niche for your organization in those collaborative efforts.

Your work to advance your organization’s unique brand involves illustrating how you contribute essential threads to your community’s interwoven fabric. You serve as a crucial resource and contributor to social and/or environmental responsibility.

Collaboration combines your organization’s power with that of other organizations that share your values, in a strategic effort to benefit a larger number of people than you could alone.

Ask yourself: How does your work fit into the larger picture of your community’s well-being?

For instance:

1) Are you picking up where other organizations leave off (geographically, economically, demographically, or otherwise)?

2)  Are you breaking new ground or starting a trend that will create possibilities for your field or industry?

3)  Do you serve a crucial intermediary function that other important systems need to work well?

4)  Are you providing needed support for other community organizations to progress (facilitation, information exchange, equipment, research, etc.)?

Your organization offers unique perspectives, expertise, and resources to groups in your community that work on related issues. Together, your efforts take your collective work to a higher level.


1) The Henry Street Settlement’s employment program and Recycle-a-Bicycle, Inc. co-sponsor a youth development project that blends environmental education with job training. New York City youth and young adults from low-income neighborhoods repair donated bicycles and reintroduce them into the community through retail sales or donations. Participants also learn about the environmental benefits of bicycling and conservation. The project’s other collaborators include local public schools and after-school programs. Since opening its doors in 1995, the initiative has recovered or spared 109 tons from the city’s waste stream.

2) The AMBER Alert network, headed by the U.S. Department of Justice, broadcasts emergency messages when a law enforcement agency determines that a child has been abducted and is in immediate danger. The broadcasts include information about the child and abductor, such as physical description and information about the abductor’s vehicle. Other partners include broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry—all contributing to the joint effort to spur the community to help in the search for and safe recovery of the child.

3) Needful Provision, Inc. is a nonprofit in Oklahoma whose for-profit arm, Preparedness Systems Intl., Inc, employs low-income people in their area to produce odorless, community composting toilet “kits” and related items. An affiliated business in Kenya, Quick Lift, Ltd, then sells the “kits” via a unique global barter trade program that helps poor African villagers buy the items without paying cash.

Bonus tip

Many international, national, and regional networks facilitate collaborations among socially responsible organizations. National and International examples include: the Social Venture Network, B Corporation, America Forward, Business for Social Responsibility, the Institute of Green Professionals, Business Ethics Network, Future 500, and

Regional initiatives include the Sustainable Business Alliance in the San Francisco area’s East Bay, Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility, the Sustainable Business Network in New York City, the Green Exchange in Chicago, and the Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center in Portland, Oregon.

Check out this extensive list of Green and Sustainable Business Networks.

By participating in a collaborative network, your organization can carve out a unique role while reaping the rewards of collaboration, in both your marketing to different constituencies and your organizational development.

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