The Collaboration Game: Solving the Puzzle of Nonprofit Partnership

Posted by Stanford Social Science Review on May 22, 2017

Nonprofit collaboration is difficult; economics, game theory, and behavioral science offer lessons on how to do it well.

Above the desks of many nonprofit executives you will find these words: “If you want to travel quickly, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.” And yet, nonprofits often act in isolation against complex problems, spinning reinvented wheels.

Nonprofit collaboration is harder than it sounds. Economics, game theory, and behavioral science suggest some lessons on how organizations might collaborate more often and more effectively.


Collaboration can help nonprofits achieve greater social impact at lower cost. To understand how, we can cautiously apply three core concepts of microeconomics: division of labor, economies of scale, and network effects.

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