Collaborative Models and Capacity in Civil Society

Meet Joe. Joe has a criminal record and struggles with employment as a result. Joe and his family have experienced poverty, food insecurity, unstable housing, drug addiction and mental health issues over the years. Joe and his family rely on several non-profit organizations and receive some assistance and essential supports. Unfortunately, the economic downturn has also taken a toll on the very charities and agencies that help.

For the thousands of Alberta families like Joe’s who are experiencing difficult times and who rely on social agencies for help, this is a perilous time. It is estimated that up to 20 per cent of Alberta’s charities could disappear due to the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic. Agencies and organizations in the civil society sector have been challenged for decades. Complex traditional funding models and constraints to collaboration have caused many non-profit organizations to strain to fulfil their missions, or worse – stay afloat.

The Canada West Foundation has launched a project to examine the civil society sector. Civil society includes non-profit and voluntary organizations, registered charities, community groups or social movements that pursue shared interests or values and private-sector organizations and individuals pursuing social good. We aim to determine gaps and overlaps in the sector and develop models and tools to strengthen the infrastructure that supports civil society, enhance collaboration and enable more efficient and effective service delivery to Albertans in need. The project is funded by the Alberta Ministry of Community and Social Services.


The Canada West Foundation is conducting research to better understand mergers and other collaborative efforts in civil society to provide an in-depth analysis of the barriers and success factors that affect organizational and systemic collaboration. A rubric to provide organizations with insight on methods of collaboration and those models that are best suited to their specific situation is in development.

Building Capacity

The terrain for civil society changes rapidly. Organizations need practical tools that can be used to assess their current situation and make necessary changes under this shifting landscape. Therefore, the Canada West Foundation has partnered with several subject matter experts to build and/or adapt tools to help organizations identify internal operational and collaborative capacities.

Outcomes Procurement

Traditional funding models are often program-based and not sustainable. They are restrictive and can prevent non-profit organizations from fulfilling the full extent of their mission, making it harder to provide comprehensive services that meet community needs. When the government wants to build a bridge, it negotiates a contract with a private contractor and the company is paid for the agreed-upon outcomes. Could government and non-profit interactions be more like this? This project examines examples of outcomes procurement being used elsewhere in Canada and the world, and its value in the Alberta context.


Financing Social Solutions through Outcomes Procurement
Canada West Foundation & Encompass Co-op