When startups and associations cooperate

Nicolas Celier
Nov 17, 2021 · 3 min read

What do a start-up and an association have in common? While seemingly very distant, these two types of organizations are ever more often finding ingenious ways to cooperate and reinvent themselves. From financial partnerships to hybridizing of their business models, these new emerging synergies send a strong signal. In the face of society’s challenges and complexities, cooperation between start-ups and associations not only provides a pragmatic and effective solution, but also produces growth and impact.

Increasing efficiency through cooperation: a necessary synergy

France counts no less than 1.5 million associations, some of them centuries old. While this longevity is partly due to subsidies and donations, the fact remains that these guardians of social ties and environmental protection have always demonstrated a stark ability to innovate in order to survive.

Start-ups have a lot to learn from this resilience, but also many strong points to put forward from their side. Their ability to gather sponsors and experts within an ecosystem has given rise to a start-up culture where beautiful stories and symbolic figures are brought together through storytelling. By drawing inspiration from this revenue-generation driven by success stories, associations could make serious gains in visibility without compromising their identity.

However, the synergy now seems to come from elsewhere. One way or another, these two major players effortlessly employ a communicating vessels strategy to take full advantage of their respective strengths, thus striking harder to maximise impact.

Be it financial partnerships showcasing the enormous potential of a coordinated approach between start-ups, associations and non-governmental organizations, or pursuing hybridization, all new models are based on a single watchword: cooperation.

Financial partnerships offer new perspectives on impact

Unlike traditional skills-based sponsorship, the new avenues of cooperation offered by start-ups align directly with their core business and numerous stakeholders.

Such is the case of Castalie water fountains. In collaboration with the Dutch foundation Made Blue, itself partnered with local NGOs, this year the start-up pledged to donate 60,000 euros of its turnover for the construction of 4 water wells in the Ethiopian city of Adama. The approach involves the coordination of the necessary actors, financing and specialized expertise for the construction of health facilities. Each water well installed benefits 1,000 adults and children, supplies 1,000 tonnes of CO2 and saves 550 tonnes of plastic waste. By 2024, Castalie aims to provide more than 35,000 people with access to water and hygiene.

Hybridization, a new model to promote the expertise of associations.

Despite the novel partnerships developing between start-ups and associations, each entity still remains within its legal scope. In France, permeability between the two is strictly regulated.

However, under the impulse of associations, new models are starting to emerge. Some, such as Live For Good, take a clear stance: all expertise developed for their beneficiaries must be of benefit to other structures to increase impact. The association has therefore chosen to market its digital platform, Huggle. However, this provision requires stepping outside the associative framework to offer a universal solution, develop features that can prove valuable for other associations, train users, etc. In other words, a commercial approach becomes essential to this end, particularly for those associations eager to scale up, but not without a certain amount of caution. By offering new financial resources, hybridization certainly grants more autonomy and independence, but it can also lead to a bias: falling outside of its scope of impact by marketing its offer to large groups. A bias of which to be particularly wary, according to Live For Good. By focusing on providing prices in line with the associative business model, Live for Good also allows new structures to remain in a virtuous circle by consuming solutions designed by their peers.

Building the society of tomorrow, addressing the immense challenges posed by the climate crisis, reducing rampant inequality: regardless of the obstacles, associations and start-ups are already on board to provide solutions. From partnerships to hybridization, new impact-oriented cooperation modes are springing up everywhere and all but demanding to be replicated on a larger scale.

Ring Capital