A new collaborative partnership for BRIDGE

BRIDGE is excited to announce the launch of the new Collaborative Community of Practice in After-School Learner Support. This will take place on 19 July 2017 at the Wits School of Education during the Axis Summit (18-20 July 2017).

Over the past year, BRIDGE has seen an emerging inclination amongst organisations (who would not ordinarily form one community of practice) in the education space formalising collaborative partnerships around pertinent issues.  The partnership between BRIDGE, The Learning Trust* (TLT) and IkamvaYouth** (IY) is one such example in the learner support space. These three like-minded organisations came together in response to the recognition that the whole was bigger than the sum of its parts, and that a bigger impact would be achieved through collaborating rather than competing.

The initiative originated in the Western Cape, where the Premier’s Office anchored the partnership between IY and TLT for building a community of stakeholders interested in collaborating to grow and support the most exciting after-school interventions in South Africa.  All the partners recognise that there is a myriad of factors that affect learner outcomes, with no one stakeholder claiming to have a silver bullet to fix education. These collaborative partnerships seek to amplify as many voices as possible and consult the various stakeholders to inform the sector and provide a safe space where learners’ education trajectories are positively impacted.

In the context of the After-School Game Changer Initiative which began in 2015, the After-School Community of Practice (CoP) was launched on 30 March 2016. The CoP in the Western Cape comprises government representatives, donors, NGOs who implement and support after-school learner programmes, learners and implementing partners. It has a participation level of between 70-80 individuals. In Port Elizabeth, TLT has partnered with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Centre for Community School to host and facilitate a participatory learning space for NGOs supporting learners and schools towards improving education outcomes in the metro. The aims of these emerging communities are to share best practice, explore opportunities for collaboration models, share and learn from the challenges of models, advocate for formal partnerships with local and provincial government authorities with civil society, and work together on content and information sharing. These common aims form the basis for future collaborative innovations through CoPs between BRIDGE, TLT and IY not only in the Western Cape, but also in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

BRIDGE is increasingly being recognised for its role in understanding the dynamics of collaboration through communities of practice and their associated knowledge management practices. Over the seven years in which BRIDGE has been in existence, different CoPs have evolved and grown in diverse ways. Together with BRIDGE, members have taken on collaborative projects with different goals, varying degrees of success, and sometimes surprising outcomes. BRIDGE itself also collaborates with other agencies or institutions. Through these activities we have gathered narratives and gained insight into collaborative projects, their highs and lows, barriers and enablers, and their pitfalls and successes. These histories feed into our growing understanding that there is no one ‘model’ for successful collaboration: every collaboration is unique, and context is always key. However, we are building our own frameworks for establishing principles for collaboration and ways of mapping different types of collaboration. While a structured framework for knowledge management underpins all collaborative efforts, some of the lenses through which we view collaboration are as follows:

– Motivation for collaboration: motives can range from a shared mission to assist a defined target audience, to consideration of practical factors such as cost-cutting, avoiding duplication and sharing resources and expertise, to external imperatives such as funding criteria.

– Goals or outputs of collaboration: these include product development, changed practices, increased spread of impact, increased leverage, linkage of complementary service provision and many more.

– Typologies of collaboration: these can be structured in various ways. Examples of approaches include the intensity continuum (from loose arrangements through to more formal arrangements), stakeholder identity (e.g. public/ private, inter-agency or inter-sectoral partnerships) or according to sites of delivery such as at a local level, provincial or national level.

– Mapping the dynamics through describing the ‘enablers’ for successful collaboration (e.g. behaviours or processes) as well as possible barriers to collaboration. Typically, enablers or critical success factors include elements such as creating trust, agreeing on defined outcomes, establishing common understandings of roles and responsibilities and reflecting and adapting at key points. Barriers might include issues such as unequal power relations within the collaboration, time constraints or lack of financial accountability in relation to joint funding.

We look forward to the establishment of the After-School Learner Support Collaborative CoP, and growing our knowledge of collaborative processes and mechanisms through this new venture with our partners.


*The Learning Trust is a non-profit organisation that acts as a conduit funding organisation for the extension and improvement of learning opportunities for young South Africans who come from disadvantaged communities.

**  IkamvaYouth is a non-profit organisation established in 2003 to equip learners from disadvantaged communities with the knowledge, skills, networks and resources to access tertiary education and/or employment opportunities upon graduation.