Not-for-profits (NFPs) have an opportunity to secure new partnerships, access innovation and possibly win new funding streams if they take advantage of the move by more Australian companies to adopt ‘shared value’.

    The nascent corporate strategy aims to advance social good while enhancing business value, says AICD NFP Sector Leader Phil Butler. “It genuinely aims for a win-win.” Shared value is several steps closer to the heart of the company’s strategy than corporate social responsibility (CSR) and philanthropy.

    Butler says NFPs that understand how their stakeholders could benefit from shared value partnerships and projects will be in front. It means understanding how a certain company or industry sector may align with the NFP’s goals and approaching companies with innovative ideas.

    “It’s about putting aside the traditional models and changing your thinking when it comes to problem solving,” he says.

    In one overseas example, quoted in a 2013 Harvard Business Review article (Innovating for Shared Value), GE partnered with a social enterprise in India to help tackle infant mortality. The kicker was the decision to use a $200 incubator created by the social enterprise because it was a better fit than GE’s $2,000 model.

    A recent survey of ASX 100 companies has found that a growing number are now pursuing shared value strategies and are seeing both social and economic benefits as well as positive brand associations.

    The survey, by the Shared Value Project, also found that many companies are already pursuing initiatives that deliver economic, social and environmental outcomes, but don’t necessarily label them as ‘shared value’, says Executive Director Helen Steel.

    There’s “enormous” potential for NFPs to tap into these burgeoning new markets, says Steel.

    “We see NFPs becoming service providers to large corporates that are trying to provide services the NFP sector already has a lot of knowledge about. I think we’re going to see really great success stories of shared value partnerships between NFPs and corporates,” she says.

    “One example might be where an NFP already has an idea for a solution but doesn’t have the resources to implement it. But they could apply a business strategy to develop a sustainable funding model and work with a corporate on that, rather than thinking about a grant or some sort of short-term funding.”

    It’s a giant leap forward in the power of collaboration, not only between NFPs and corporates but with government as well, says Butler. “Many issues are too big to be solved by just one sector. It’s only through a collaboration that the really difficult problems will be solved.”

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