How two diverse teams can work together in a dynamic and agile way, enriching each other to achieve their common goals in the social impact economy.
In 2019, Repsol Foundation and Ilunion signed a Letter of Intent to jointly analyze the opportunity to develop business projects that favour the global challenge of energy transition and sustainability with a clear social impact, allowing the creation of job opportunities for people at risk of social exclusion.
As an attempt to become a player in the Social Impact Economy, Repsol Foundation created Repsol Social Impact, an investment programme which together with Ilunion founded in 2020 a Newco called Recycling4all, SL. This newco consolidates 4 previous existing companies that vertically integrate the e-waste value chain recycling process (collection, transportation, processing, management and valorization).
In short, the challenge was: how two organisations that have such different backgrounds would be able to work together?
Repsol Foundation and Ilunion created a Collaboration System specifically for Recycling4all in order to carry out their common goals at different levels of collaboration which has become the key element that makes the relationship between both companies as dynamic and agile as needed to perform the Strategic and Operational targets.
The collaboration system was created on the basis of “formal collaboration structures” and “informal collaboration sutructure”. By formal collaboration structures, a set of meetings with different periodicities was created; Recycling4all Board of Directors (quarterly), Follow-up meetings (monthly), Business Development meetings (weekly) and Special Purpose meetings (when needed).
However, one of the key elements that makes Repsol Foundation-Ilunion relationship a success case has been the informal collaboration. Despite the short life of Recycling4all, there’s a high level of trust in the way both organizations work. The reduced number of the teams (4-5 people in each team) and being a young “Joint Venture” (which makes that all of us have been involved in this project since its inception, and therefore feel it as “our own”) have helped to build this relationship.
This partnership is an example of mutual cultural learning, and of how two organisations that have different backgrounds are able to work together. Merging both visions, we add the best value of each partner and define a shared vision of the future.
Although Recycling4all is less than 1 year old, through the Collaboration System described above we have guaranteed that both organizations give the right impulse to the development of the strategy to continue growing and increasing environmental and social impact. Some examples of the output of this collaborations are: a new investment in an existing facility to increase its capacity and to give operational flexibility has been approved and the project is being launched; new sites are already under evaluation for future facilities; new feedstocks and technologies are being studied as potential future market opportunities; Recycling4all was able to submit two Expressions of Interest for the development of new infrastructures for two different Ministries in Spain. These were part of the Call for Expressions of Interest in the framework of the Next Generation EU Funds.
Key Insights / Advice to Peers
When consolidated companies decide to collaborate, their different cultures can arise difficulties when both start to work together. In our case, defining clear and periodic ways of collaboration as well as getting to know each other at a personal level (meetings in person, travels…) helped us overcome those difficulties as it helped increase the level of confidence and collaboration withing Recycling4all. Our three pieces of advice would be:
- Define clear goals that are shared by everyone from the beginning. And, if you define yourself as a social impact organization, the social goals must be as a permanent guideline in your strategy
- Define different degrees of collaboration that enables the information flow between the different players at all levels
- Create not only formal but also informal collaboration structures that fill the gap that may appear between the formal levels of collaboration
- About Recycling4all
- Collaboration Structure
- Recycling4all Partners
- Repsol Impacto Social CoLab Award Submission
Paula Utrera (Investment Analyst at RIS): firstname.lastname@example.org
Ane de Ariño (Senior Investment Manager at RIS): email@example.com
Rodrigo Paris (Investment Associate at RIS): firstname.lastname@example.org
Mario Gutierrez de Teran (Investment Manager at RIS): email@example.com
Alejandro Fernandez (Executive Director of Circular Economy at Ilunion): firstname.lastname@example.org
Ana Uruñuela (Business Development Director at Ilunion): email@example.com
Pedro Antonio Martín (General Manager at Ilunion Reciclados): firstname.lastname@example.org
Borja Vallespin (Director at Ilunion): email@example.com
Most philanthropic organisations work in silos, pursuing their own mission and intervening in clearly defined areas, organising their own calls for projects, and evaluating their impact independently from others. However, issues such as integrating refugees are complex social problems that require a truly holistic and cooperative agenda in order to make an impact.
Faced with the above challenge above, the Sanofi Espoir Foundation sought to strengthen dialogue, coordination sharing cross-sectoral practices and knowledge among foundations. In 2018 the Sanofi Espoir Foundation established a Foundations Committee acting as a unifying force of initially more than 20 foundations with a 360° perspective to provide a comprehensive response to a selected societal challenge, the integration of migrants/refugees.
Up to today, the Foundations Committee has engaged in various critical actions:
- Jointly mapping out all their action lines to identify which areas were covered and which were left out, both in terms of issues and geographical coverage (2019);
- Partnership with an external organisation – the Observatory of Immigration and Asylum of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) – to act as both the committee coordinator and technical monitoring service (20219);
- Ten members of the Foundations Committee decided to pool their funds to pilot a project for learning French, in collaboration with local players in Correze (2021).
The project aims to strengthen the synergies between actors (associations, foundations, and local institutions) and complement existing government actions in the region. The pilot initiative will be evaluated in mid-2022. Once evaluation results are available, they will be widely disseminated and the intention is that the project can be rolled out in other French regions.
Insights/ Advice to Peers
When the Committee was created in 2018, about twenty foundations wanted to participate in this collective adventure. It quickly emerged that several foundations found themselves limited by their field of action or their over-strict rules of governance and had to withdraw (due to the geographical region of operations, type of beneficiaries, over-sensitive topics, etc.).
One of the first challenges of this Committee was to unify all stakeholders around a common theme and goal. Several agreed to make concessions on behalf of the collective (by broadening the spectrum of beneficiaries, operating in a region outside its usual scope, supporting an action beyond the usual “call for projects” etc.).
Five tips that could be helpful for similar projects:
- Such a collective approach works best when applied to complex social problems.
- Take sufficient time to agree on the framework and the main objective before moving forward and testing the pilot project.
- Apply a holistic approach that addresses the beneficiaries’ individual multiple circumstances and constraints at the same time.
- Think in terms of “decompartmentalisation” and “collective” action, because pooling skills and resources is a key success factor. Solving a complex problem will be easier when working with several partners, and will also resonate more visibly, especially in the media.
- It is important to involve a neutral, independent and legitimate coordinating structure to oversee the shared subject matter.
- Launch of a pilot language-teaching project in Corrèze (Central France)
- Sanofi Espoir Foundation CoLab Award Submission
Healthcare program senior Manager
Through our practice we have learnt that achieving impact at scale requires both effective collaboration and clarity on what you are seeking to build. Organisations often work in silos, and have different understandings of what is needed, and use different language. In our experience, no single actor can shift a system, and collaboration is essential. Yet the support needed for partners to come together and find common ground is often lacking, and efforts fail when there is no shared route map. We developed the Framework to codify our understanding of what it takes to create lasting impact and enable people to come together to define and shape how they work. The Drive programme is a practical example of this – a collaboration between Social Finance, SafeLives and Respect in the UK to shift the response to perpetrators of domestic violence, as an essential step in changing the wider domestic violence landscape. It sought to address a lack of consensus on how to intervene in this critical area, encourage more statutory interventions and encourage more focus and resources from policy makers.
The Framework is an action orientated tool which encourages all changemakers regardless of sector to define outcomes sought and identify the strategies to achieve them.
On outcomes sought, we have mapped lessons from our and work and examples of successful social ventures by others to define the ‘building blocks’ which hold change in place. Used collaboratively this encourages dialogue around ‘what is missing?’ and helps advance a shared understanding of what is needed, and how to measure progress. When this approach was applied in the Drive programme, through dialogue the partners jointly identified a clear purpose that has continually guided the collaboration over the past 5 years.
On strategies, the Framework identifies ways forward. It identified the foundation for success and encourages reflection on stakeholders’ respective roles. It can also help identify other systemic gaps that need a new approach as the context evolves. In the Drive programme the partners have used this thinking to identify additional opportunities – for example recently starting an innovative pilot to provide housing options for perpetrators, enabling earlier intervention.
The tool has been very well received in a wide range of settings – being used by funders, statutory stakeholders and NGOs to think about their goals and respective roles, opening up more space for cooperation with others. For example, it is starting to reinvigorate a UK funder collaboration around Violence Impacting Young People, providing a new clarity of focus.
This systematic approach has been used very successfully on the Drive programme. The partnership has benefited from clarity on roles, enabling three organisations who had not worked together to define clear shared system goals and have a clear framework to sustain the collaboration, whilst also pursuing their own complementary work. We launched and scaled an new model which is creating an independently evaluated evidence base, and challenged the status quo through shifting the narrative around the issue, engaging policy makers and minsters and shaping wider practice. We drew others in, with 120 organisations signing Drive’s Call to Action to government. It was cited as being central to the decision to embed a perpetrator focus in the recent Domestic Abuse Act and unlocked £45m of new government funding.
Key Insights / Advice to Peers
- Enable collaborations to start with a problem, not a solution: So often scaling attempts start with a particular solution (and hence an organisational lens), from which it is harder to build collaborations. The Framework helps build towards shared system-level goals that better enable stakeholders to locate their own role. However, resources often flow to end solutions and miss this process of initial exploration, which is essential to success. Funders should try and provide the capacity to start thinking and collaborating differently. At the outset, Drive benefited from such funding and set the foundation for what’s been achieved.
- Develop a shared narrative: Achieving impact at scale often needs a combination of new services or practices, systems embedding change and new perspectives. The Framework can be useful for reminding stakeholders of the need to focus on all three and develop the narratives that sit across all of On the Drive programme, the overarching reframing narrative – shifting from ‘why doesn’t she leave?’ to asking ‘why doesn’t he stop?’ – has been very powerful in enabling change.
- Work with the context: We’ve found that successful approaches are often those that work with, rather than against, the grain of the policy context, whilst also stretching and pushing against some of these policies in the areas that matter. To do this successfully needs tools like the Framework to continually focus and refocus stakeholders on their shared goals and to be open to new strategies. The Drive programme has continued to adapt to respond to the context, for example using the shift to online delivery during Covid to broaden its training offer to help non-specialist professionals.
- The Changing Lives, Changing Systems: Building Routes to Scale report and its sister report on the Drive programme – Lessons in Reducing and Prevening Domestic Abuse
- Building Routes to Scale Framework
- CLCS Lessons from reducing and preventing domestic abuse
- Drive programme case study
- Social Finance UK CoLab Award Submission
The private sector is an engine of economic growth and creates opportunities for people along the product and services value chains. Companies across the world create and distribute products and services. They involve people as employees, entrepreneurs, suppliers, or customers. In doing so businesses create opportunities for income generation, employment creation and improved quality of life. However, most low-income people remain excluded from these value chains due to barriers such as lack of infrastructure, regulatory hurdles, information asymmetry and capacity gaps. Ecosystem Development Approach aims at co-creating solutions to resolve these challenges and therefore including low-income people into value chains. Integrating this group into value chain can only be achieved through collaboration, but effective collaboration requires solid facilitation with a systematic, deliberate, and practical approach.
The Ecosystem Development Approach (EDA) is a 5-step approach to strengthen business ecosystems in emerging markets centered on principles of collaboration with elements of learning and adaptation.
The EDA provides tools that identify factors preventing businesses from growing and reaching scale as well as serve as a convening platform for cross-sector actors (e.g. government, impact investors, banks, civil society actors) to effectively drive the development of Inclusion. EDA, formerly known as IBEI was piloted by UNDP in the three African counties: Lesotho, Senegal, and Uganda.
The approach builds on UNDP’s strong track record and expertise in ecosystem building, multi-stakeholder collaboration and inclusive business over the last decades as well as on insights from the collective impact on communities. EDA is based on the concept of collective impact which depends on the idea that social problems are a result of multiple and complex actions and can be solved by coordinated efforts (The Ecosystem of Shared Value, Harvard Business Review, 2016). Collective impact has emerged as a powerful and innovative approach to solving social problems and is a paradigm shift for how to create social change. Complex social problems are affected by large and interdependent systems that no single organisation can change singlehandedly. As such, UNDP in Africa has supported the establishment of the EDA in three sub-Saharan African countries and provided catalytic funding to 21 inclusive businesses through innovation challenge awards.
The following are piloted sectors and countries with key outcomes:
- The EDA in Senegal aims at improving access to solar energy services for low-income populations through the creation of a supportive ecosystem for inclusive businesses in the solar energy sector.
- The EDA on mobile money in Lesotho aims at transforming Lesotho into the first African nation with a fully digital payment system where mobile money is a key tool for financial inclusion of low-income populations.
- The EDA in Uganda aims at transforming the tourism sector by increasing competitiveness and realizing benefits for all.
Insight/ Advice to Peers
The message to all development organisations is to act now. The EDA is effective where sustainable business solutions to development challenges are possible, but currently precluded by constraints in the business environment. By improving the business ecosystem in specific sectors or sub-sectors and creating incentives for impact, it reduces risk and increases potential financial and social returns for public and private impact investors. From the beginning, the EDA has been designed for replication and the AFSH provides a comprehensive training document and standardized tools for use along the way.
- Report on Building Inclusive Businesses for Shared Prosperity in Africa, May 2013
- UNDP Private Sector and Sustainable Investments Team & Africa Finance Sector Hub (AFSH) CoLab Award Submission
Tomas Sales, Special Private Sector and Sustainable Finance Advisor
Africa Finance Sector Hub, Pretoria, South Africa