"I'm allergic to coalitions." That's what a prominent Canadian environmental leader once told me. It was 2012, and the organization I was working with at the time had broached the idea of uniting A several groups in an effort to disrupt the entrenched "jobs versus nature" narrative.
Unfortunately, the would-be partner wasn't into it. The proposed assembly would be too unwieldy, he said, and his group's specific interests and messages would end up diluted and lost in the crowd.
Partnerships and coalitions can be powerful. But the truth is, they do take effort. If it is to succeed, a coalition has to "feel right" on several levels. There needs to be trust and some basic rules of engagement. The whole thing rides on a continuing shared conviction that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In the case of The Low Carbon Partnership--a new alliance of organizations helping Canadian businesses and communities take action on climate change, increase profitability, and grow the low carbon economy--all the pieces came together.
It took a funder to strike the match, says Mike Morrice, Executive Director of Sustainability CoLab, one of the three initial founding partners alongside The Natural Step Canada and Climate Smart. (A fourth partner, QUEST (Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow), joined the group later.)
That funder was the JW McConnell Family Foundation.
Morrice says each of the three initial groups had applied for funding for work that had similar objectives around advancing the low-carbon economy. Sensing there was an opportunity for the groups to do something special together, the foundation approved the funding requests, but topped up the grants with additional funding to seed a collaborative effort that would span the country.
Elizabeth Sheehan, who is based on the West Coast--far from Ontario, where the others call home--says that without McConnell's initiative, they would still likely be competing for resources. "I don't know if I would have had the time to make that move without the foundation's support," she says
In late 2014, Sheehan, the President and co-founder of Climate Smart, flew to Ottawa to talk about a possible partnership with Morrice and Chad Park, then the Executive Director of The Natural Step Canada.
From square one, something just clicked.
"It was fantastic," Sheehan recalls. "I was having a conversation with others doing similar work, and figuring out how we could support a different narrative about...