What we think

Personal Mastery of mindsets for Partnership Innovation

18th September 2019 Posted by: Ethicore

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Partnership and innovation require similar mindsets, to explore possibility beyond the limits of our own organisation or existing solutions.  Tackling problems to achieve such ambition for transformative change is a stretch.  It takes diverse skills and perspectives working together in multi-functional teams.  solutions mindset is key, particularly when balanced with a reflective and openness mindset. 

Developing a reflective mindset is critical for excellence in partnership and innovation. Studies have shown that perceiving a supportive feedback environment is linked to greater feedback seeking and higher performance2.  Taking time to reflect with colleagues and partners can help explore the dynamics of a partnership. It is important to embrace this feedback and learn from it. Feedback and discussion can expose issues and opportunities; help challenge nascent assumptions and habitual approachesand make knowledge and attitudes more explicit, making it possible to work on solutions.   

Practising an openness mindset with humility and embracing differences in viewpoints, can lead to greater opportunity for innovative ideas, which is essential for transformative partnerships. Indeed, researchers have found that openness to experience is linked to Creativity i . People who welcome feedback and are interested in other points of view, seeing these as a way to find solutions, can build mutual success in relationships. Incorporating the solutions of others and empathising with their perspective helps to make individuals feel valued, as well as enhance partnership and innovation solutions. 

A solutions mindset is critical for transformative partnerships and innovation.  It challenges us to engage with the experience of participants in programmes or ‘users’deeply understand problems we are solving and outcomes we are expecting as well as seeking out solutions that are already emerging.  When developed alongside a reflective and openness mindset, the following approaches will enable both partnership and innovation: 

  • NLP researchers propose that the flexibility to move between the levels at which a problem or concept is considered, from the abstract to the detailed or vice versa, can help gain agreement in negotiations and plan projects.  
  • Embracing heterogeneity to stop ‘group think’ and encouraging participation by local actors. 
  • Being flexible and adaptive, encouraging openness and adaptation to changing contexts and challenges. 
  • Taking considered risks: being ready to fail fast and learn. 

 As partners we need to focus on building solutions and openness mindsets, enabling us to create a fundamental shift in the way we view problems and our ability to innovate.  

Follow the series to get an overview of the mindsets for partnership and innovation and delve deep into each mindset for more insights and tools.

Sign up at https://www.ethicore.com/get-in-touch/sign-up/ to receive the series by email. 

By Rachael Clay and Jane Thurlow

[i] Schon, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action (p. 1983). New York: Basic Books.

[2] Whitaker, B. G., Dahling, J. J., & Levy, P. (2007). The development of a feedback environment and role clarity model of job performance. Journal of Management, 33(4), 570-591.

Opening Mindsets for Partnership

11th September 2019 Posted by: Ethicore

Terracotta wall windows

Photo by Caitlin Oriel on Unsplash

In our last blog, we introduced the mindsets for partnership and innovation.

Mindsets do not have to be fixed.  Starting with the disciplines of self-awareness, awareness of others and self-regulation, one can begin to develop a mastery of the mindsets essential for partnership.  Mindsets are built from, and closely intertwined with, personal mental models that help us make sense of the world and guide the way we see ourselves, others and our work.  Shifting mindsets requires us to break and remake our mental models and inform new behaviours.  

Five ways to refresh our mindsets for partnership and innovation 

Professionals working in partnerships need to re-examine their mindsets and their whole approach to partnership through a process of transformative learningDrop the barriers and defensiveness and face up to our existing mindsets and assumptions.  Only then can we unlearn what we think we know and come to realise that our current beliefs and actions cant always be relied upon. Use these five tools to renew mindsets for partnership and innovation: 

1. Actively seek the views of outsiders to help identify new assumptions to establish the new mindsets, e.g. using stakeholder interviews or conversations. 

2. Ask different questions, e.g. what can we help you with, to develop and model behaviours that support each new partnership mindset and signal the change to others. 

3. Use news tools and systems to reinforce new mindsets and normalise them in a partnership, e.g. partnership temperature check, visioning. 

4. Incentivise doing things differently, e.g. reward participationcelebrate human-centred design and recognise mistakes 

5. Remember, pushing too hard for change can increase resistance, e.g. questioning shared value.  So, loosen the barriers to change while focusing on desired mindsets, monitoring partnership KPIs, not just the deliverables.   

Partnership professionals have a job to do, but they can’t do it alone.  It takes a team.  There is an urgent need to professionalise partnerships mindsets and skills for all those delivering in partnership.  Organisations need to invest in the training, systems and support, as partnership is core to transformational change. 

Follow the series to get an overview of the mindsets for partnership and innovation and delve deep into each mindset for more insights and tools. 

Sign up at www.ethicore.com/get-in-touch/sign-up to receive the series by email. 

By Jane Thurlow and Rachael Clay

Introducing Mindsets for Effective Partnerships

4th September 2019 Posted by: Ethicore

Effective partnerships are dependent upon the mindsets of the individuals that make up a partnership.  Individuals hold deeply rooted assumptions and generalisations that will influence their perceptions and behaviour.  Our behaviours aren’t fixed, however, and we can learn to apply certain mindsets and skills through a process of personal mastery to enable better partnerships1. 


Developing three personal and internal disciplines of awareness, reflection and regulation acts as a basis to master ‘partnership mindsets’: 

  • Self-awareness of your own assumptions, emotions and behaviours is fundamental.  
  • Awareness of others requires reflection.  Stepping into your partners’ shoes and looking through the lens of their core values can allow you to understand their behaviours and develop awareness. 
  • Self-regulation is about monitoring and managing one’s own thoughts and emotions.  Emotions such as stress, lack of motivation and frustration can hinder performance.  Anchoring positive emotions can help develop positive, constructive mindsets for partnership. 


Through our research, we have identified 6 mindsets for partnership.  Developing mastery of the mindsets is key to transformative partnerships. 

1. Outcome mindset 

Being outcome focused means being clear and honest about what you seek from a partnership.  Start from here for authenticity and positive working relationships. 

2. Effectiveness mindset 

Compliments an outcome mindset.  Having clearly set out your goals, you can be frank in delivering difficult information. Being sensitive, yes, but always direct, and holding the partnership to account when it’s not delivering.  

3. Solution mindset 

Very symbiotic with a reflective mindset. Practice these two together, always.  Look for the solution that you don’t already have an answer for, avoid retrofitting your solution or programme to the problem. 

4. Shared value mindset 

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes, consider why your partners are in the partnership in the first place.  Take accountability for your own goals but also for the relationship. How can you achieve more by working together and looking beyond a service-based partnership? 

5. Openness mindset 

Seek empathy and practice humility. Without this, you’ll never develop real trust or move beyond conflict and challenge. 

6. Reflective mindset 

Be open and honest, welcome feedback and provide it to others. Learn together for shared wisdom to reinvest in a bespoke partnership approach. 

The mindsets for partnership need to be mastered and held in a healthy balance.  For example, developing both an outcome mindset and an effectiveness mindset will enable you to both push towards your goalsand keep a dialogue open to manage progress and issues along the way.  Balancing a solution mindset with a reflective mindset is key to help partners to develop and iterate solutions that respond to learning and feedback as well as the needs of ultimate participants/users/clients.  Similarly developing mastery of the shared value and the openness mindset is key to understand each other’s goals and to build sufficient trust to enable them to be delivered in partnership. 

Explore more on mastery of mindsets in our model below.  

Introducing Mindsets for Effective Partnerships

Follow the series to get an ‘overview of the mindsets for partnership and innovation’ and delve deep into each mindset for more insights and tools. 

Sign up at https://www.ethicore.com/get-in-touch/sign-up/ to receive the series by email. 

By Rachael Clay

[1] The fifth discipline – Senge – Personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision, team learning, systems thinking


Mindsets for Partnership and Innovation 

27th August 2019 Posted by: Ethicore

Mindsets for Partnership and Innovation


How transformative could our partnerships be if we invested in the mindsets and capacity of each individual that makes a partnership happen?  The leaders, finance, design, delivery?  Partnership is ultimately made up of individuals and their relationships with each other, with success or failure often determined by the attitudes and behaviours of those individuals.  It takes real mastery of mindsets for partnership’ to create and sustain transformative partnerships.    

Too often partnerships lack a shared aspiration for change, getting stuck in service delivery, unable to break down silos or finding ‘new’ difficult.  A partnership may be drifting off track but the partnership doesn’t have the relationship or the tools for the partners to disclose and address issues In this partnership mindsets series, we’ll be introducing 6 mindsets for partnership and the core mindsets that underpin them.  Let’s challenge ourselves to invest in partners to develop their mastery of mindsets for transformative partnerships. 

Follow the series to get an ‘overview of the mindsets for partnership and innovation’ and delve deep into each mindset for more insights and tools. 

Sign up at https://www.ethicore.com/get-in-touch/sign-up/ to receive the series by email. 

By Rachael Clay 

The challenge and rise of new financing modalities for Sustainable Development

27th June 2019 Posted by: Ethicore

Brookings Impact Bond Snapshot, 1 January 2019

Brookings Impact Bond Snapshot, 1 January 2019[i]

Funding for development is changing.  Payment by results and contracts were already shaping expectations of grants and mainstream funding.  Now new funding modalities such as Development Impact Bonds (DIBs), blended finance and Multi-Donor Trust Funds (MDTFs) are reinforcing this trend.  Specific programmes may be well suited to such approaches, increasing efficiency and scale, leveraging investment funding and incentivising innovation.  They may rebalance risks for development actors and governments, but they also raise new questions around power, funding, policy and continuity.  We explore the modalities and considerations. 

Brookings Global Impact Bond Database tracked 134 impact bonds as either completed or in implementation by the end of 2018, mostly Social Impact Bonds.  Specifically, in development, there are seven active Development Impact Bonds DIBs currently. Outcomes-based programmes are financed by risk capital from social investors with an ‘outcome funder’ (e.g. a donor or government) paying back the investment on end results.  The approach is suited to programmes with established indicators and impact results, ready for scale-up, particularly where they are flexible and adaptive to specific contexts.  Experience of the current DIBs suggests teams need to be prepared to invest time and money in measurement and reporting systems and close coordination with partners to succeed.  DIBs are less suited for longer-term programming and can carry high start-up costs for investment and systems [ii].   

Blended Finance can leverage significant funding for SDG delivery and focus private investments on development outcomes. This is a large market ($50bn), forecast to double [iii]. Development finance in the shape of loan guarantees or mezzanine loans (governments absorb impact of defaults) de-risk private investments, attracting finance for development projects. But large infrastructure projects attractive to investors may not have development benefits for communities and marginalised indviduals [iv], and incentives are biased to middle rather than low-income countries [v]. 

Multidonor trust funds are well established (MDTFs exist for disaster response, global development and country projects), with pooled funds from multiple donors.  Benefits include a commitment to long term coordinated programming between actors and funders and reduced entry costs for smaller donors.  Collaboration in larger MDTFs promote common policy and practice.  The challenge is to make sure donor funding preferences and budget lines do not work against shared objectives and funds [vi] 

New financing modalities can help leverage new funding and were applied well have the potential to increase focus on outcomes and performance. However, it’s important to address issues head-on, including power, funding, policy and continuity. 

  • Power imbalance: Power dynamics and power imbalances between international investors and governments in countries.  More evidence on results and impacts for people and communities in poverty are needed [vii] 
  • Funding substitution: Do new funding mechanics generate incremental revenue streams, or simply substitute traditional ones?  A particular concern for private foundations and corporate investments. Again more data is required. 
  • Policy Framing: More policy and institutional frameworks are needed to guarantee positive development impacts from private financing flows [viii]. Clearer international criteria and definitions for financing platforms could assist (e.g. Green criteria for Green Bonds [ix]). 
  • Continuity: Annual budgeting cycles for investors challenge continuity and longterm interventions [x].  Investment funding for pilots could be as well used in proven, established programmes. 

As traditional grant funding contracts and contorts, collaborating in new modalities of finance offer exciting new pathways for funding development.   Although evaluations of alternative financing methods are positive, more work needs to be done to assess future potential and longterm impact.     

By Jane Thurlow

[i] https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Impact-Bonds-Snapshot-January-2019.pdf

[ii] Impact Bonds in Developing Countries: Early Learnings from the Field Brookings Institute, September 2017

[iii] Blended Finance TaskForce

[iv] Development Initiatives, Blended finance: Understanding its potential for Agenda 2030, 2018 (http://devinit.org/post/blended-finance-understanding-its-potential/)

[v] Investments to end poverty 2018 report, Development Initiatives

[vi] 2006 Review of Post-Crisis Multi-Donor Trust Funds: Key Findings, Joint Donor and World Bank Review Norway, Canada, United Kingdom, and The Netherlands. World Bank Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction Unit, Trust Funds Operations Unit, Fragile States Unit

[vii] Impact Bonds in Developing Countries: Early Learnings from the Field Brookings Institute, September 2017

[viii] Blended Task Force

[ix] Bank Track Calls for Strengthening of Green Bond Principles

[viii] Impact Bonds in Developing Countries: Early Learnings from the Field Brookings Institute, September 2017

[x] Impact Bonds in Developing Countries: Early Learnings from the Field Brookings Institute, September 2017