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Building Meaningful Connections in the Impact Sector: Strategies for Lasting Change

Craig Zelizer

June 14, 2024

This blog was generated using human creativity and writing + and some cool AI tools including lexpage (for grammar and improving writing), Satellitor (a draft blog post) and Chatgpt

Collaboration is like assembling IKEA furniture. It seems simple until it turns into a scene of a Mr. Bean episode, with ill-fitting parts and frustration. Many times, I’ve been more exasperated than Mr. Bean. However, with persistence, deep breaths, a bit of help, and attention to instructions, everything falls into place. Collaboration in the impact sector is similarly challenging but rewarding.

Start with Network Hubs

Diving into the impact sector can feel overwhelming, but starting with network hubs is a strategic move. These organizations are essential to the ecosystem, packed with resources, connections, and insights that can advance efforts to create change. They offer a place to begin and also a community to grow with and learn from.

Broaden Your Perspective

Network hubs like PCDN.global, ANDE, and AVPN provide a broad view of the impact sector, focusing on key issues, emerging trends, and best practices worldwide. This perspective is essential for understanding where you can make the most significant impact and aligning your work with the sector’s evolving needs and opportunities.

Access to Essential Resources

These hubs share resources at the organizational and individual levels. Whether you’re looking for job opportunities, networking, learning, advocacy, or support, platforms like Devex, Idealist.org, and PCDN.global are excellent starting points. They provide tools to navigate opportunities and challenges in your sector and beyond.

Build Meaningful Connections

Engaging with network hubs opens doors to building relationships with like-minded individuals and potential collaborators. Attending events like the Skoll World Forum, SOCAP, and the AVPN Conference can be transformative, allowing you to meet thought leaders, innovators, and peers who can inspire and support you. Professional contacts often become allies, friends, and partners in your mission. Of course, be prepared for some competition and clashes of egos, but the advantages of establishing strong connections outweigh these challenges.

Finding Funding and Collaboration Opportunities

Many network hubs like the Human Rights Funders Network (HRFN), Ashoka, Echoing Green, and the Global Innovation Fund provide pathways to funding and collaborative projects, crucial in securing resources to expand and increase impact.

Facilitating Cross-Sector Collaborations

Network hubs facilitate collaborations that cross boundaries. The Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) promotes partnerships that enhance peacebuilding efforts, while the Collective Impact Forum supports multi-stakeholder initiatives addressing complex social issues. These networks combine resources and expertise, tackling problems too large for any single organization.

Advocating for Systemic Change

Joining these organizations means being part of a collective voice advocating for systemic change. Groups like 350.org, Global Citizen, and the ONE Campaign drive movements to influence policies on critical issues like climate change, poverty alleviation, and social justice. By being involved with these hubs, you gain platforms to raise awareness and drive action on the issues that matter most to you.

Challenges to Consider

Network hubs offer advantages, but there are some challenges to highlight.

  • Access and Costs: Many conferences and memberships can be prohibitively expensive, limiting access for smaller organizations and individuals, especially those from under-represented regions.
  • Whose Expertise is Valued: There is often a focus established on Western perspectives, which can overshadow diverse insights.
  • Leadership: The leadership within these organizations doesn’t always reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, which impacts their inclusiveness and priorities.
  • Balancing Action with Networking: It’s easy to spend a lot of time attending events and networking without actually building and doing the work. Finding the right equilibrium is crucial. Networking and learning are important, but so is dedicating time to your core mission.

Despite these challenges, collaboration in the impact sector has grown tremendously. There’s increasing recognition of the need to make these networks more inclusive and accessible, ensuring they represent diverse voices striving for change.

Discover Global Network Hubs

Ready to start building connections? Here are some of my favorite network hubs from around the world that can help you on your journey (note this is just a start, will continue to update this list).

Global Hub or Networks

  • Skoll Foundation – A hub for social entrepreneurs driving large-scale change.
  • Ashoka – Supports social entrepreneurs making a difference in their communities.
  • Alliance for Peacebuilding - a nonpartisan network of 200+ organizations working in 181 countries to end violent conflict and build sustainable peace.
  • Civicus - a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world.
  • SOCAP – Unites impact investors, social entrepreneurs, and innovators.
  • Society for International Development - network of individuals and organizations to promote socio-economic justice and foster democratic participation in the development process.



  • AVPN – A leading network for social investors and philanthropists in Asia.
  • Sankalp Forum – Promotes entrepreneurship and innovation in emerging markets, especially in Asia.


European Venture Philanthropy Association (EVPA): Connects European organizations to promote social investment and venture philanthropy for societal change.

Social Innovation Exchange (SIX): Fosters collaboration and knowledge sharing across Europe to advance social innovation and address complex social issues.

Latin America

  • RedEAmérica – A network dedicated to strengthening social investment practices in Latin America.
  • Impact Hub Latin America – Part of a global network supporting social entrepreneurs and innovators in Latin America.

These hubs are ready to welcome you into a dynamic and diverse global community committed to positive change. Dive in, explore, and start building the relationships that will help you change the world. And remember, like assembling IKEA furniture, it might be frustrating, but the results are worth it.

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