Collaboration is defined as “the action of working with someone to produce something”, however, the winner of the Social Finance Award for “Most Promising Collaboration” will belong to a group who takes this definition to new heights.
The collaboration between the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), CatalystX (Cx) and the Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI) – fittingly titled the Youth-Led Collaborative is one such collaboration. The collaboration brings together these individual organizations creating an end product that is much more than the sum of its parts. Jory Cohen, Managing Director of YSI, describes it best in saying, “it’s really a natural fit between the three of us, we’ve realized what our individual strengths are and we’re sharing these strengths with each other.”
What is the Youth-Led Collaborative?
The Youth-Led Collaborative was formed to bring together a range of assets in order to build infrastructure for young social entrepreneurs. The collaborative is supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) and includes CatalystsX (Cx), Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI), and Vicki Saunders. Cx brings experience with peer networks and project management, YSI specializes in providing social venture financing, and Vicki lends her expertise in impact measurement. By bringing together this diverse range of organizations, the collaborative is able to achieve their impact. Through nurturing YSEs at every step of their journey, the collaborative is an incredibly valuable one to the broader social finance marketplace; they are building and nurturing its future.
Such an innovative collaborative could only come about through an innovative process. Enter OTF, who brought the collaborative together through an exciting new strategy put in place solely with the purpose of seeking collaborations in the social finance space that would support young social entrepreneurs. After an extensive process, Cx and YSI were selected as one of only seven funded initiatives.
A baked in collaborative approach
After spending the evening getting to know Tinashe Mafukidze from Cx and Jory Cohen from YSI it is easy to see that there is something special here. Both believe in order to work together most effectively to reach their shared vision, honesty and transparency are key. They have made the effort to get to know each other on a personal level and establish deep friendships between the organizations.
While they are working together to create a shared vision for future YSEs they both work on distinct yet complementary pieces of the puzzle. Cx focuses on developing the entrepreneurs; their character and supporting their ideas. YSI then comes in to invest in sustainable ideas and ventures and helps them grow. YSI also brings a third, and unique element by engaging impact investors and offering their investors triple bottom line returns.
Even more exciting is the fact that this is a youth-led collaborative. Mafukidze sums up the value in this; “Young people can actually design their own programs and supports better then anyone else. As young people we can be more comfortable with change than more traditional organizations. We want to build a sustainable future for our social entrepreneurs but also for ourselves.” Cohen sees being able to guide a YSE through their journey, from pre-launch to investment and growth as an amazing opportunity. Mafukidze shares in this excitement, “my hope and dream for [the collaborative] is [helping] young social entrepreneurs to think about what is the value proposition of my idea to both funders and to my community.” Both agree that by working together they are taking leaps towards making this a reality.
All three partners come to the collaboration with openness and a genuine desire to learn together and with others to make the world a better place. And it is due to this common goal that they are all able to look to the future, a future they plan to work together to create, with such optimism and enthusiasm. As Cohen emphasizes, “I feel really strongly about collaboration in this space, this is where we can create systemic change…everyone can focus on their strengths and not try to recreate the strengths of others as we work together to accomplish a shared vision.”
It is this vision and the ambition, tenacity and excitement to work hand in hand, strength for strength to create the future they want for themselves and for fellow young social entrepreneurs that makes the collaboration between OTF, Cx and YSI the most promising.