Out-collaborating vs Out-competing: The Secret to Making Progress on Complex International Development Challenges with Gillian Javetski

Episode 9  |  33 minutes

Jonathan Jackson and Gillian Javetski, Dimagi’s Chief of Staff, discuss why it’s imperative in international development and global health to collaborate vs compete. We unpack fundamental lessons about collaboration gleaned over the last few decades at Dimagi. You’ll learn: What distinguishes good collaboration from bad collaboration? What makes an exceptional collaborator? How has Dimagi developed a collaborative culture? And despite that, why have people called Dimagi uncollaborative? Why is it so important to be selfish when it comes to collaboration on shared impact? When should you re-evaluate a collaboration? And, when should you decline a meeting?

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“When you have limited resources, everybody kind of needs to be in a mindset of how do we make these resources go further? And so competition can be extremely healthy when there's plenty of profit and you want to let the best firm win and you want to just drive price down. But with global development, we're running extremely challenging projects. You have many different stakeholders and partners, and you're constantly trying to innovate as well. So you're not just selling widgets. And when you add all that together, your core skill is much more how do you successfully collaborate versus how do you successfully compete.” - Jonathan Jackson

“It's also important to recognize when collaborations won't work. You know, you can have a shared problem but there's just cultural mis-alignment between teams or organizations. Prioritization can be a huge issue. Timelines can be a huge issue. So while we are huge advocates of out-collaborating over competing, collaborations are certainly difficult. And it does take a lot of skill and muscle building, both as an individual and as a team and as an organization to get good at this.” - Jonathan Jackson

"One of the things that I I find is really important is to step above the transactional nature of the collaboration. You know, what's the immediate problem you're trying to solve- whether that's integrating two digital systems or aligning on the national CHW framework -to the higher level problem. What is the public sector really trying to get out of this project? What do patients really want to see from a change in terms of the healthcare services they're experiencing? How can you really make somebody's job better? And when you level up to that problem statement, it's actually a lot easier to find common ground on what's driving a collaboration. And so it's important, obviously the transactional and operational work needs to happen. But when you can align to that bigger level question, both organizations or many organizations are struggling with, it creates a lot more room for alignment that you can then bring down into the more transactional and operational work." - Jonathan Jackson

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