Insights from a Pathways Partner: Innovation Through Collaboration

In November 2017, Independent Sector kicked off a series of convenings under the auspices of a new initiative called Pathways. Pathways is designed to explore and elevate evidence-based successes from local and national settings, and create a network for scaling effective practices that are responsive to unique community needs. The initiative is grounded in the operative belief that the synthesis of the sector’s best work gives us our best chance of effecting systemic change.

Kwaku Osei, CEO of Cooperative Capital, a Detroit-based private equity fund, attended two Pathways convenings—one in Detroit in November 2017, and another in Salt Lake City in January 2018. He shares his thoughts about the ability of Pathways to bring together organizations and individuals to identify gaps, collaborate, and drive innovations that respond to local needs by tapping into shared resources.

At times, the sheer number of challenges, problems, divisions, and so on that we face every day can be overwhelming. But there is tremendous beauty in our current reality as well, because major societal problems present us with opportunities to leverage resources in our communities to create a world that is more just, equitable, inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous.

The status quo isn’t working for a majority of people — nor is it sustainable. To overcome our biggest challenges, we need more experimentation and the ability and willingness to bet on innovative solutions. And it is equally essential that we capture what is learned with each attempt so we can accelerate the learning curve for those that follow down the path of innovation. Unfortunately, these practices and the mentality needed to carry them out are not commonplace in the social sector.

Cooperation “What we can’t do on our own, we can do together.”

At Cooperative Capital, we are creating a model of community-wide cooperation. We are a community-driven private equity fund that empowers residents to pool their money to collectively invest in their community. Our goal is to create accessible opportunities for residents to invest in and benefit from economic development happening in their city. But while our work at Cooperative Capital is a step in the right direction, it isn’t enough on its own. That’s why I’m so excited about my involvement in Independent Sector’s Pathways initiative that is focused on improving outcomes for underperforming schools. This collaborative effort is connecting me with changemakers from a variety of backgrounds, and helping us figure out how we can work together to achieve community-level goals that have proven elusive. In a lot of ways, it’s the same model we implement at Cooperative Capital, just expanding it so the pool of resources and thereby potential for impact increases significantly.

A closer look at details from a poster made during November 2017 Pathways convening in Detroit.

For example, when I look at our work in Detroit I see all the resources necessary for success present in our community. But many of the essential resources and innovations are scattered, and as a result we continue to leave opportunity (and impact) on the table. If we’re able to break down silos and learn from each other, over time we will accumulate a body of knowledge about what works, what doesn’t, and why. From this, we can reduce the duplication of efforts and find smart ways to collaborate, pool resources, and share learnings for maximum impact — accomplishing together what we can’t accomplish alone.

What’s emerging from Pathways is an interconnected network of people, organizations, and ideas from our own community, as well as outside communities, all coming together to co-create a better future. As this initiative grows, participants eventually will be able to share their efforts and results in such a way that others within the network can learn from and build off of what’s worked, or modify what’s worked elsewhere to meet specific needs in their own community. We’ll make smarter and more efficient use of limited resources, and have the information needed to better target persistent challenges with tangible solutions. It’s imperative that we all look for ways to connect with the entire community of change, and I believe we will find that this type of cooperation is the key to ushering ourselves into the future we all want to see. This is the goal of Pathways, and why I’m so excited to be a part of the movement.

To learn more about Kwaku’s org, check out Cooperative Capital’s website. Kwaku was also featured in this April 2018 article by Fast Company’s Adele Peters.

Types: Blog
Focus Areas: Nonprofit Capital, Organizational Relationships