Opening worlds: The benefits of international collaboration

anita-groverAnita Grover is CEO of the award-winning charity Auditory Verbal UK, which works with families of deaf babies and young children across the UK. In 2015 she visited listening and spoken language centres in the First Voice Network in Australia and New Zealand after being awarded Macquarie’s David Clarke Social Innovation Fellowship in the UK.

Every small charity that has a big ambition needs to understand how it can best scale up its operations to achieve it. But how many of us have the opportunity to really learn from the experience of those who have done just that in other countries?

Too often, we are drawn into the daily challenges of securing voluntary income, managing our reputations and delivering our busy agendas. There never seem to be enough hours to look at what others are doing but the benefits are huge, as I discovered during a six week research trip to Australia and New Zealand to research best practice in early intervention for deaf children.

Top five benefits of international collaboration

Scaling up systems

Look at the operational systems that others are using. Do you need a bespoke database? Have others developed something that you can buy, saving significant time and effort in research, with the knowledge that it works in your field of work? Following my visit to specialist centres in Australia, we are now in a position to purchase a bespoke clinical database that has been three years in development and that will transform our operations.

Opportunities for collaboration

Can you pool your knowledge so that the sum is greater than the part? Is there research already out there that you haven’t discovered or can you collaborate with other organisations on future endeavours?

We have been able to identify small changes in the way that we collect, record and analyse our data that will enable us to pool our information with other non-profits, which will in turn present a much bigger picture of the impact of our work at home and abroad. We’ve also been able to identify some exciting opportunities to collaborate and have had funding doors opened.

Engaging supporters

Even though there are cultural variations and country specific regulations, there is so much to be learnt from others in how they engage individual, government and corporate supporters at a local, regional and national level, particularly when they are working in the same field.

Innovative (and tested) ideas

Thanks to colleagues in the First Voice Network, we launched our first LOUD Shirt Day in the UK in June 2016, based on the hugely successful initiative in Australia and New Zealand which raises funds to support deaf children. We’ve built on their branding and their experience of what worked and what (crucially) didn’t.

We also hope to license an award-winning mentoring programme that has been developed in Australia for deaf teenagers, rather than trying to establish something similar from scratch.

Peer to peer support

Having a sounding board with people who are doing similar work has proved incredibly valuable. I learnt a lot from my conversations with the CEOs of charities in the First Voice Network and this dialogue has continued since my visit. We’ve also established connections at each level of our organisation – to collaborate and share ideas together. The hope is that this will lead to international exchanges and secondments in the future.

Applications for the 2016 Fellowship open on 13 July 2016, providing a grant of £10,000 to a non-profit CEO in the UK who has a compelling rationale to research social innovation internationally.

See more information and apply


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