Purposeful Collaboration: Teaming Up to Increase Community Impact

By: Dr. Joshua Thomas, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness in DE

AstraZeneca recently hosted a number of non-profit partners at our North America Headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware for an event, entitled Purposeful Collaboration, which was developed based on their interest in collaborating across organizational lines for greater impact. Experts in collaboration from The Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement shared a model called Collective Impact and the groups in attendance had the opportunity to connect with one another, share information about their priorities and begin to explore potential for collaboration.

Among those in attendance was Dr. Joshua Thomas, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Delaware. Below Dr. Thomas shares his reflections on the importance of collaboration as a mindset and the role that he believes it can play in generating greater societal impact.  

The recent Purposeful Collaboration event hosted by AstraZeneca provided non-profits like my own an opportunity for communication, exploration, brainstorming and identifying areas for collaboration. Our facilitators from the Delaware Alliance for Non-profit Advancement led us in a rich discussion to explore the needs of our community and how our missions aligned to help meet these challenges.

Our discussion of organizational partnership paralleled a recent situation in my neighborhood. My family was recently awakened in the middle of the night during a terrible storm and discovered a house in our neighborhood was on fire. The family residing in the home narrowly escaped and lost the majority of their belongings and valuables. Within minutes, those on our street went from being polite neighbors to concerned friends offering comfort and pooling resources to support the family. By working together and communicating we were able to support one another and let the family who lost their home know they had a community of caring people behind them.

Those of us in the non-profit world can learn from this difficult situation. It is easy for us to get stuck in our silos, focused on our mission and fail to recognize areas where we align. But collaboration needs to be internalized as a standard way of thinking and serving our community. Many of our groups provide access to basic resources like adequate food, housing and education and others support those struggling with serious health conditions including mental illness. We have an opportunity to offer hope, encouragement, and most importantly resources to offer substantial assistance for community members in need.

By sharing resources and ideas across organizations, the nonprofit community can increase our impact focused on specific community problems. At NAMI Delaware, I am excited to partner with those non-profits working in educational environments and healthcare settings to increase access to our no-cost mental health education and support programs. This kind of collaboration can help increase success not just for NAMI Delaware, but for our partnering organizations and their participants.

As members of the community focused on addressing significant societal issues it is our responsibility to continue to remove barriers to communication and partnership. It is clear there are opportunities for non-profits and the corporate sector to work together to tackle significant community concerns. I am energized by our discussion and ready to seize opportunities to unite our efforts to make lasting and positive change for those in our community in need of our support.

Dr. Joshua Thomas is the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Delaware (NAMI Delaware). In this capacity he serves as the Chief Executive Officer of this non-profit organization, focused on advocacy, support, education and housing for people living with mental illness and their families

For more about the Collective Impact model for collaboration by visiting the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement.