What does it mean to 'collaborate for purpose'?

Published on January 10, 2024
What does it mean to 'collaborate for purpose'?

In the lead up to our highly-anticipated 2024 Annual Conference, we’ll be talking a lot about collaborating for a purpose.

To set the tone for the upcoming conference, we thought it was valuable to explore what we mean when we say we’re ‘collaborating for purpose’.

There are big questions behind this statement: who should be involved, how should they be involved, and what rules and guidelines should be in place to ensure everyone works together effectively, not just for their own interests.

In this blog, we explore some of the research trends around partnerships, collaboration, and what it means to work towards something with real social outcomes.

 Untitled design (32)-1


Shifting the PPP needle

Recent research around partnerships signals a shift in what participants and the general public expect from engaging with and benefiting from a partnership.

Under the more traditional public-private partnership (PPP) model, governments work directly with a private sector company, normally for the purpose of developing services or systems to enable public infrastructure.

PPPs were first introduced as a way for governments to create much-needed infrastructure, without taking on all the financial responsibility. While PPPs have successfully delivered numerous infrastructure projects, recent research into how people work together in partnerships is shifting the needle.

Instead of focusing solely on the economic or financial outcome, research is shifting more towards the role power dynamics play in PPPs, especially in projects designed to help the general public such as housing, health and transport.

This shift is accompanied by a growing awareness of the need to focus on the social benefits of a project, not only the economic ones.


Untitled design (32)-1


In search of greater value

As recent scholarship in this area highlights, concerns about PPPs focus on the fact that if private interests primarily decide on how projects unfurl, many community-based concerns may be missed in the process.

For some, the purely economic valuations of many PPPs – namely, a reliance cost-benefit analysis to determine success – do not account for social-based indicators that consider the needs of society’s most vulnerable.[1] These needs are dependent on the area and project, but some might include health and wellbeing factors such as mental health, poverty reduction, and improved inequality for Indigenous people.[2]

For others, PPPs are fundamentally flawed because they are limited by the fact that they can only reasonably deliver a certain type of value – the financial aspects of a project.[3]

Trending new research is pushing for a different type of partnerships, ones capable of balancing organisational performance and public value creation society as a whole.[4]

Cross-sector partnerships are being heralded as a way to set goals to achieve more social value through projects, and implement them with transparency and rigour.


Answering the call for more cross-sector partnerships

Cross-sector partnerships differ from PPPs in two key ways: they are between more than a private and public partner and they ‘work together for the benefit of economic, social, and environmental welfare’.[5]

 Such partnerships between a network formed from commercial, non-private, non-government organisations and government bodies are becoming increasingly widespread, especially to address ‘wicked’ problems that transcend sectoral boundaries, such as renewable energy.[6]

For proponents of cross-sector partnerships, the problem-solving capabilities of the approach come with a promise of greater effectiveness, complementary resources, and shared risk management. Even the United Nations praise the model as an ‘essential paradigm, in tackling global and complex challenges.[7]

While the promise of cross-sector partnerships is exciting, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how these arrangements work on the ground. Who will set the goals of these projects? How will these goals be more socially beneficial, and for whom? How will resources between all the partners be managed? What measures will be taken, and how will they be monitored for accuracy?

These are just some of the questions our upcoming 2024 Conference: Collaborating for Purpose is seeking to raise.

If you’d like to find out more about the conference including tickets and sponsorship opportunities, visit our website: Procurement Australia 2024 Conference

 Untitled design (32)-1


Source: Procurement Australia

[1] Quelin, B V, Kivleniece, I & Lazzarini, S 2017, ‘Public-private collaboration, hybridity and social value: towards new theoretical perspectives’, Journal of Management Studies, vol 54, pp 763–792.

[2] Mazzucato, M & Ryan-Collins, J 2022, ‘Putting value creation back into “public value”: from market-fixing to market-shaping’, Journal of Economic Policy Reform, pp. 1–16.

[3] Lazzarini, S G 2020, ‘The nature of the social firm: alternative organizational forms for social value creation and appropriation’, Academy of Management Review, vol. 45, no.3, pp.620–645.

[4] Cabral, S Mahoney, J T, McGahan, A M & Potoski, M 2019, ‘Value creation and value appropriation in public and nonprofit organizations’, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 40, 465–475.

[5] Bryson, J M, Crosby, B C, & Stone, M M 2006, ‘The design and implementation of cross-sector collaborations: Propositions from the literature’, Public Administration Review, no. 66, no. 1, pp. 44–55.

[6] Head, B W 2022, Improving Social Well-Being and Social Equity. In: Wicked Problems in Public Policy, Palgrave Macmillan, Chicago.

[7] Stibbe, D, Reid, S & Gilbert, J 2019, Maximising the Impact of Partnerships for the SDGs. Rome, UNDESA. 

Contact A Representative