Critical Success Factors and Lessons Learned

Key learnings and success factors for building your hub

What are some of the critical success factors for launching an innovative partnering unit, hub or department? And what are must-haves for convening partnerships? Here are just some of the factors and key elements we found have been critical to the success of our multi-sector partnering hub - and we are still learning as we travel this new road!

Critical Success Factors

Adapt Your Messaging

It is vital to adapt messaging to reach different audiences and stakeholder groups. This requires sensitivity, forethought and intentionality. We valued the process of developing personas for our different stakeholder groups to understand their needs.

The Power of Storytelling

Storytelling is a wonderful way to teach, educate, inspire, motivate and turn theory and concept into real people and their lives. It connects us to our own humanity. The importance of sharing needs, opportunities and impact through stories cannot be underestimated.

Illustrate Complex Concepts

Visuals have become our go-to method to illustrate complex concepts, especially given the different ways people mentally capture and process the information around partnerships, motivations, purpose and co-creation.

Find Your Pace

Find the right pace. Get known, be visible, build a community, gain credibility – but without overpromising or moving too slowly or too quickly.

Get Used to Change

Get used to not getting too comfortable. Launching a new enterprise, a new model, means we adapt, iterate, and pivot – in short, change is the constant state.

Align with Stakeholders

Be very intentional in aligning with key stakeholders. Internal stakeholder engagement and alignment has been more complex and challenging for our hub than external engagement.

Build Understanding

Seek first to understand. Be patient when not understood. This is a new endeavour. “You are not playing in the sandbox – you are playing at the very edge of the sandbox,” observed one of our senior leaders at World Vision when we got started.

Start-up Mindset

Think like a start-up. Shared-value partnerships and barter are great ways to get things done in a win-win or mutual benefit fashion. Agile methodology – using the discipline of regular sprints – keeps one focused and on-task.

The Right Problem

Make sure you focus on validated challenges and problems – and then source solutions. With many products and services available, we were approached more than once by solution providers looking for problems.

Find Your Champions

Secure an internal executive champion if you are hosted by a larger organisation.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Communicate early and often – educate stakeholders and build awareness bit-by-bit.

Early Buy-in and Commitment

Get buy-in and validated commitment early. The success of any innovation within an organisation is largely dependent on its acceptance rate within the organisation. Without the right buy-in from the right executive sponsors, there would be a limit to how far an innovation can go. Buy-in needs to be validated with tangible commitment (e.g. regular calls, responding to requests, or committing real resources).

Expect the Unexpected

Think beyond the relationship and opportunity just in front of you - it may not seem as ‘big’ as you would like, but can connect and lead to other amazing introductions and partnerships. This investment in building a trusted relationship now can yield significant returns down the road.

Critical Success Factors for Partnerships

And for some of the critical success factors when it comes to partnering, we would highly recommend that you check out this ‘go to’ checklist: 12 Steps Toward Successful Cross-Sector Partnering from our partners at The Partnering Initiative.

Key Learnings

No Short Cuts

There are no short cuts. Multi-sector partnerships with a true spirit of mutual benefit, equity and transparency require time to simmer. They require intentionality and perseverance.

Need For A Safe Space

We heard time and again from our partners and the partnering ecosystem, how important it was to create a safe space for partners from all sectors to come together, share and learn from each other.

Combinatorial Innovation

We can’t say this enough, we learned about the power of combinatorial innovation, not just across partners but within a team. Explore possible new sources of value.

Insiders and Outsiders

The need for what Prof. Sujin Jang calls cultural insiders and outsiders. Jang distinguished 'cultural insiders' from 'cultural outsiders' and observed they enhanced their teams’ creative performance through distinct roles – integrating knowledge and eliciting knowledge respectively. Leveraging diversity in teams. Different languages. People who can act as ‘bridges’ and ‘boats’.

Mindset Shift

“New thinking is useful for understanding a human reality that has been transformed by disruptive technologies and many other changes - that result in what evolutionary psychologists call a 'mismatch' between our evolved sensibilities and our modern environment,” as our good friend, Sriven Naidu says. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “A mind once stretched (…), never returns to its original dimensions.”

Creativity and Adaptability

Creativity and being nimble and adaptable are incredibly important in this complex and often ambiguous environment.

Active Gratitude

Practice active gratitude. It is a joy to celebrate professional and life milestones together. Appreciate and acknowledge positive results.

Open Is Good

Embracing a mindset of generosity, abundance and kindness creates actions and an environment that enables cooperation and sharing. These do not cause partners to receive less. These create a multiplier effect where everyone receives more.


As a team, what have been collective highlights for us, gleaned over the past three years? These are highlights in terms of our professional and personal experience.

  1. The power of combinatorial innovation, not just with other partners, but also within the Hub team itself. Both the core team and advisors draw from each other’s diverse strengths to fulfill our mission and embark on what otherwise seems absurd, too complex or unmanageable. Combinatorial innovation reminds us that when we face difficulties trying to do it alone, we draw on the knowledge that every single person involved in the collaboration — especially the problem-owners themselves — can be a contributor, an asset, or a resource to pursuing sustainable solutions. It’s been exciting to take combinatorial innovation from a theoretical concept in a blog to something we’ve seen demonstrated in real life again and again.

  2. The satisfaction of seeing practical innovation at the base of the pyramid (BoP) or where the community members need it the most, convert into real impact. Innovation is a fluffy thing; how do we apply it, think creatively to produce something different that creates impact for people that are the most vulnerable, trying to break out of the cycle of poverty? Working hand-in-hand with communities and families has provided us the opportunity to experiment and pilot solutions together.

  3. It’s not just about financial resources, it’s also about time and talent — a vast array of resources are available to be tapped. Engaging different organisations in different ways, and not starting conversations with “how much (funding) do we have?” but “what is the problem we want to solve together — what is the outcome we want to see?” We have seen the power of collective action to build awareness for issues of poverty, advocate for change and co-create solutions.

  4. The Hub space has allowed us to get ‘inside’ the different sectors — an up close look at how government and businesses (both multinationals and start-ups) operate, what impact investors prioritise, the different ways of working across NGOs and academic institutions — we’ve evolved, grown and adapted our ways of working and communicating to better navigate across the sectors.


Here are some key resources related to Critical Success Factors. Our downloadable Hub-in-a-Box guide also includes useful and relevant tools. And we’ve compiled additional tools and resources, that Asia P3 Hub has found the most useful in its journey so far on the resources section of the Asia P3 Hub website.