Preparing for Action


This section takes you through four preparation steps for collective action:

As you move into your internal exploration of collective action, it is important to recognize that such engagements are often challenging, may continue for an extended period of time, and will require resources.

A basic assumption for water-related collective action is that there is an existing or potential water challenge that translates into a business risk or stewardship opportunity. Many companies will find themselves with a “circle of water concern” (for example, the extended areas of a watershed and related deficiencies in governance that contribute to your water-related risks) that is substantially larger than their current “circle of influence” (i.e., their ability, as a business, to manage the causes or consequences of these risks). You can anticipate that your circle of influence will expand to provide increasing coverage of your circle of concern as you move into collective action, establish relationships, and develop credibility. In so doing, you will provide a platform for further reducing risk or realizing new stewardship opportunities. In the absence of a water challenge or a misalignment of influence or consensus, there is little motivation for a company or prospective interested parties to commit the resources required to initiate and follow through on a collective action initiative. However, in some circumstances, it may be justifiable from a general stewardship perspective for a company to participate in existing water-related, external-party platforms or water management initiatives.


Considerations for Forming Partnerships to Support Collective Action

As you begin this process, consider the advantages of establishing a connection with organizations that have collective action experience. Such organizations include international aid agencies, specialist consultancies, various United Nations agencies and programs, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have a focus on the local delivery of such services in a multi-stakeholder context. A partnership or a less formal arrangement with such organizations can provide access to their expertise and local networks, and they can potentially act as local facilitators when you undertake collective action. There are four considerations to keep in mind:

  • First, it is critical to understand their local capacity in the regions of your interest. An organization that might be relatively strong at facilitating collective action in one region might take years to build up the capacity, networks, and reputation necessary to effectively function in a new region.
  • Second, it is important to consider the level at which they implement. Some organizations specialize in delivering technological solutions or educational campaigns to communities. Others work on creating the institutional conditions for wider change—for example, through the reform of the water sector through all levels of governance.
  • Third, it is important to understand the mandate of the organization to work in that particular setting. Is it accepted by—or better still, working in partnership with—the government? Does it have an official mandate to be working on water?
  • Fourth, it is important to understand what type of organization it is, and therefore what type of relationship you might develop. Is the organization a contractor paid to provide advice and services that benefit the financer alone, or do they serve a common agenda? Does the organization come with not only its own financial resources, but also an expectation of equal partnership in decision making?
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