Social Enterprise Spotlight: Forming unlikely alliances for shared value

If we ever hope to navigate our complex and strained socio-economic landscape, we need to facilitate and initiate more meaningful ways of working together. Collaborations between disparate parties unlock doors and direct new resources towards enabling systems-level change.

Jocelyne Daw, founder of JS Daw & Associates,and a panelist at the 2013 Social Enterprise World Forum, is a champion of shared value and forger of partnerships. is a champion of shared value and forger of partnerships. Over the last 30 years, Jocelyne has built bridges between the corporate, non-profit and government sectors to create worthwhile and sustainable collaborations. While vacationing in Ontario, Jocelyne kindly shared some of her wisdom with SiG, presented in the Q&A below:

What led you to realize that partnerships are essential to creating shared value?
trent-severn waterway

Trent-severn waterway, a national historic sight of Canada administered
by Parks Canada

Jocelyne: My first experience highlighting the value of partnerships began at Parks Canada. While working in Peterborough Ontario, it became quite apparent that maintaining a park is a big undertaking. So big, it was beyond the scope of what our organization could take on alone. With this in mind, as well as recognizing that Canadians take great pride in their natural environment, I formed one of the first “Friends of Parks” groups in Canada. Through Friends of Parks, Parks Canada was able to tap into new resources such as partner organizations and volunteers, who also had a deep interest in park preservation. Following my initial exposure to the benefit of partnerships, I carried on as the founding executive director of the Canadian Parks Partnership, overseeing the formation of all “Friends of Parks” groups across Canada.

How do you create shared value now and could you offer an example?

A part of our work at JS Daw & Associates involves helping non-profits understand their value proposition. Charitable organizations often struggle at communicating what they have to offer. I assist non-profits in seeing their assets, not necessarily the ones on their balance sheet, but the intangible connections and influence derived from their relationship with the community. Through talking about these hidden community assets in a different way, non-profits can better use them to leverage business relationships in the community.

The other side of the coin is our work with corporations. Companies increasingly understand that they have to be more involved in the communities in which they operate. As a result, I support corporations in finding and forming relationships with non-profits and communities that can create shared value, typically through tackling an issue of mutual interest.

Math-Minds_logo_CMYKAn example of shared value is the Math Minds collaboration between Canadian Oil Sands, Jump Math, the University of Calgary, and Calgary Catholic School District. Math Minds is a 5-year initiative with the shared goal to enhance elementary numeracy in students and teachers. This multi-sector partnership would not have been possible without each member agreeing on the critical importance of early math literacy. Further into implementation, we invited other partners to collaborate like the Calgary Public Library.

What excites you most about the future of social enterprise?

In the traditional sense of the word, social enterprise is a non-profit starting a business. Nowadays we are increasingly seeing the roles being blurred between nonprofits and business, sometimes in the form of new social enterprises. How do we take social enterprise up to the next level and help people look at social problems as opportunities for business? We live in a resource-trapped world. The social issues are too big to ignore and it can’t just be one sector doing this anymore. We have to collaborate with a whole new mindset.

For this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum, you will be speaking on “Unlikely Alliances”. Why are unlikely alliances important and how might we go about forming and sustaining them for the long-term?

Jocelyne: For forming unlikely alliances, I’d advise organizations to be open to involving the unusual suspects. How can you look at things in new ways? Who would you work with? Think about what you are trying to achieve, and what strengths and assets you bring to the table.

People tend to silo the activity of gaining partners; however it is truly an integrated journey. Good intentions aren’t good enough. We have to work harder at knowing what we want to achieve. Through knowing what we offer and what we want to achieve, we can start to forge unlikely alliances. For unlikely alliances to sustain themselves, people have to feel the value of being there. When there is a higher purpose, people stay committed. 

The Social Enterprise Forum is a gathering of 1200 social impact champions from various sectors and associations around the world. What excites you most about attending the event?

SEWFJocelyne: I am especially excited for the incredible speaker lineup. Leaders are coming from all over the world to share their knowledge and expertise. I expect it’ll be an incredible networking experience. Looking at other great social enterprise forums, some are invitation-only like the Skoll World Forum, but this is an invitation for anyone who is passionate
about social enterprise and can just get to Calgary. 

This blog is part of the Social Enterprise Spotlight series showcasing various social innovators speaking at this year’s Social Enterprise World Forum taking place in Calgary on October 2 – 4. Learn more about the Social Enterprise World Forum here.