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Sectors of Action

How to Emerge Stronger: Collaborative Philanthropy

Meeting during Lab for Change, Lazos de Agua Special Edition.

Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, the world has been plunged into a once unimaginable uncertainty. The severe impacts of COVID-19 on both the economy and the well-being of communities at global, national, and local levels will last long beyond the crisis period. And they have made us all — individuals, communities, businesses, and governments — realize how interdependent and interconnected we are.

As a global foundation working in the areas of sanitation, hygiene, and sustainable behaviour change in countries with fragile health systems, we have found ourselves witnessing and addressing the fast-evolving needs of our project partners as well as those of the millions of people we are helping in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, and India. The current situation confronts us all with immense challenges; among other things, it impacts and will further impact the philanthropic landscape. There is a tremendous increase in demand for social and health services, to name but these, but as the financial downturn continues to unfold, many non-profits are seeing their funding drop off drastically. Many vital missions face disruptions at a time when communities need them the most. Philanthropic organizations around the world are undertaking massive efforts to align their resources with the pressing changing needs whilst fulfilling their missions. Similar efforts are being made in the private sector, with businesses reorienting their production lines for the collective need.

One Drop’s mission is as vital as ever, but we cannot achieve it alone. We live in an ecosystem of interdependence. This crisis allows us to clearly see how each of us is responsible for and impacted by those around us. While COVID-19 has created a unique and taxing context, the timeless, ever simple, but proven principle of collaboration is one that we have always embraced with our partners, along with the vision of a stronger and united future, together.

Collaboration is at the core of One Drop’s values. It is, therefore, embedded in our operational model and reflected in our daily work. Collaboration has tremendous potential for creating impact at scale, which is of crucial importance when facing a mission such as ours. Collective collaboration with artists, behaviour change experts, communities, governments, and international non-profit organizations all at once creates an enabling environment for lasting change within One Drop's projects. Aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, One Drop’s mission of ensuring sustainable access to safe water is a colossal challenge — and a challenge of this size can neither be tackled alone nor without creative thinking.

Year after year, we reinvent new ways of raising funds, using our expertise and assets to forge mutually beneficial partnerships and design novel fundraising initiatives often involving sector leaders not traditionally associated with philanthropy. By working together with multiple partners, capitalizing on the strengths of each, we widen the scope of funding in support of our mission and multiply the amount raised by an average factor of six, pushing our collective capacity to new heights.

Through collaboration, even the boldest ideas can be within reach. We accelerate synergies with partners, reaching spaces that otherwise would not be reached. We are empowered by one another. From the onset of this crisis, we have been attentive to our partners’ and donors’ difficulties and concerns to understand how the situation is impacting them, while focusing on our common goals to ensure health and safety for all. Many of our financial partners and donors, regardless of their size, sector, number of employees, or geographic presence are dealing with the unexpected at many levels and have expressed the need to pause and reflect on real solutions. Despite some of our important revenue-generating events being cancelled or postponed indefinitely, partners have reached out and shown immense flexibility, stressing their ongoing commitment to keep working together.

We may not yet have a vaccine for COVID-19, but collaborative philanthropy is already playing an active role in helping us prepare for the future. Collaborative efforts by all sectors are now underway to present a coordinated response. The key to preparing for the future is found in the same proactive mindset that has guided us to work together since the beginning of the crisis. We must act decisively despite our uncertainty because our tomorrows depend on us now. At One Drop, we remain fully committed to the communities we work with and to our partners worldwide. We aspire to connect with leaders from all walks of life, to think together, to explore new paths, to overcome this challenge, and to ensure a healthier and more resilient future for all.

A defining moment like this will mark our collective memory and can spark a true ripple effect. Where those ripples may lead is entirely up to us. We may not know what the future holds, but what we do know is that it matters how we use our powers collectively. Let’s all work collaboratively, for-profit and not-for-profit, the public and the private, the large and the small. The coming months will continue to test our resilience and our solidarity as a global community. There has never been a more important time to show that, united, we can achieve extraordinary things when the situation requires it more than ever.

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