To meet the challenges of today’s increasingly complex and interconnected world it’s no secret collective action is required for long-lasting solutions. Addressing complex and pressing problems like climate change, cyber security and gender equality demands disparate skillsets, knowledge and perspectives. The private sector, governments and non-profit organizations are increasingly leaning into multidisciplinary collaborations to steward positive social and economic development on local and global scales.

Members of the Devonshire Initiative gather at Baker McKenzie’s Whitespace Legal Collab in Toronto.

On February 5th, Whitespace Legal Collab at Baker McKenzie Toronto hosted The Devonshire Initiative (DI), one of Canada’s most unique multi-stakeholder development forums. After ten years of bringing together mining companies, non-profits, governments and academics that share a common interest in improving communities impacted by mining, the DI shared five powerful insights on advancing effective collaborations.

  1. A common vision is key.
    Articulating desired outcomes of a partnership is critical, and often harder than first appearances may suggest. Establishing a shared common vision that includes concrete goals, timelines and commitments charts a course for all partners to follow both together and independently.

  2. Get clear on innovation.
    One of today’s common buzz words can still cause anxiety if not properly defined. Innovation is still largely considered the practice of creating new idea’s, approaches or technology, but in many cases it is equally impactful to modify or adjust the status-quo. Adopting a shared mindset that recognizes subtle improvements as innovation wins, often unleashes the problem-solving abilities across partner groups.

    Ed Opitz, Vice President of Sustainability & Safety at Kinross and Sanjay Khanna, Director and Futurist of Whitespace Legal Collab by Baker McKenzie
  3. Make time, together.
    Building a strong relationship always requires one essential element – time. It takes time to build trust, develop shared knowledge bases and forge meaningful bonds. The more time spent together, the greater the opportunity to find common ground and points of difference. Spend time together.
  4.  Plan for the end (and after that too).
    Mining operations often have a set lifespan and so do the resulting partnerships developed in host countries. Increasing the odds that programs and services stemming from these partnerships remain strong, adaptable and funded takes committed planning. In multi-sector collaborations like the Devonshire Initiative, each partner plays a role in building resilience. For example, non-profits need to evaluate existing efforts and invest in scaling proven services while private sector partners can aid the transition to a viable financial foundation. Planning for the end of your partnership is essential for long-term results.


    Peter MacKay, Partner at Baker McKenzie and Wendy Drukier, Director General for Global Affairs Canada.
  5. Establish multiple touch-points.
    Multiple touch points should support the partnership throughout associated ecosystems. Silo-ing or localizing ownership of the partnership in one specific person, department or office will stymie progress. Ideally, commitment to collaboration should be embedded among senior decision makers in each partner group.