by Kristine A. Schaan, MA, NHA, CPG
I view partnerships to be like relationships – they require a significant investment in time and effort, but in the end prove to be extremely rewarding. Without partnerships, what would the world look like? Indeed partnerships serve as the cornerstone of success, enabling us to do so much more than the confines of our own organizational walls.
The sustainable development efforts convened by the United Nations recognize the strength of partnerships with a focus on Partnerships for the Goals (no. 17): Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.
Doing More in a Country That Needs More Doing
The United Nations believes that partnerships are integral in the pursuit of sustainable development. Partnerships are needed to mobilize a diverse range of both existing and additional resources. These resources range from technology development to financial resources to capacity building. In meeting the sustainable development goals, countries are given primary responsibility for ensuring that resources are effectively mobilized and monitored with progress reviews undertaken regularly. This resource mobilization helps contribute to sustainable development.
The most recent progress review for sustainable development reports that Singapore as a country is underperforming within Partnerships for the Goals in comparison to both regional and global averages.  By way of example, Singapore reports a score of 27.5 based on a 0-100 scale. This means that Singapore has achieved 27.5% of its progress towards attaining the UN goal with 62.5% progress still to be made. In fact, Singapore’s ranking of SDG no. 17 is second lowest across all 17 sustainable development goals. This contrasts with the East & South Asia average achievement score of 42.1% and the Global average achievement score of 62.1%.
These numbers may prompt Singaporean leaders, if not already, to take a more serious look at how to bridge the gap and foster collaboration across sectors. These efforts are beginning to be felt particularly in the non-profit sector as strategic alliances and partner relationships are becoming more diversified.
A Simple Yet Powerful Approach
As a start-up and non-profit, Cycling Without Age Singapore perpetually has resource development and deployment front of mind. We recognize the unique range of contributions and strengths (resources) each potential partner has to offer. Our partnering approach can be put simply: time, treasure and voice.
Time. The foundation of Cycling Without Age. Time reflects our growing network of more than 500 volunteers. They give their time generously by providing seniors with the experience of a trishaw ride and the wind in their hair. Moreover, we invest considerable time equipping our volunteers as well as our partners with comprehensive training.
Treasure. The popular adage no margin – no mission rings through loudly. Our operations require a sustainable revenue stream just as any other program and organization requires. We have created four prominent funding streams which encompass trishaw sponsorship, corporate events, categorical grants, and aging wellness and caregiver trainings.
Voice. This encompasses brand awareness and advancing our mission to combat social isolation. We accomplish this through word of mouth, speaking engagements, conferences, event participation, social media, research studies, and new releases. At the heart are the stories captured on the trishaw rides. These bring our cause to life by highlighting the voices of both the seniors and the pilots.
Shifting the Mindset, Partnering for a Cause
Our recent partnership growth is indicative of the fruits of our labor. In less than 12 months we have established partnerships with 15 nursing homes and other senior providers. We have entered into formal agreements with five public sector organizations and in the realm of universities, youth organizations and other similar organizations, we have established eight recurring relationships. Even more encouraging has been the expanded interest and formal partnering with corporates which range from advisory services and banking to IT and technology infrastructure to insurance and real estate to medical to logistics to leisure.
Aside from the quantity in partnerships is the quality we have been able to realize particularly in shifting the mindset of our partners – both in the context of promoting active aging as well as supporting our cause and the mutual benefits it brings. Corporates are increasingly using corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives as a key strategy for sustainability and growth in an increasingly competitive operating environment. Cycling Without Age is one such CSR initiative in which organizations are finding tremendous value and return on investment. In particular, they are seeing an increase in their brand exposure, brand reputation, and credibility. Moreover, corporates that engage their employees in cycling sessions get to experience our cause firsthand. It is our intent that our partnerships will continue to evolve even further.
Sustaining Partnerships Through Shared Values
While partnerships development is fruitful, sustaining these relationships is of even greater significance. We are most successful when we can identify a common vision and shared values. In a dynamic and changing world, these shared values ensure that our agendas resonate with our partners and for the long haul.
In pursuit of sustainable development, our partnership success is largely attributed to our ability to identify common ground from a range of stakeholders. My experience has been, amongst our diversity, the opportunity to look beyond our differences and find common ground is in great abundance. Along with many other ambitious non-profits, Cycling Without Age greatly exemplifies this notion.
About our partner: Cycling Without Age Singapore has been engaged with Steward Redqueen throughout the past several months, serving as our industry expert. Steward Redqueen is a specialized consultancy that works across the globe advising organizations on impact and sustainability. Their vision is to make business work for society with a focus on integrating sustainability, quantifying impact, and facilitating change.