Rootcause

Ways to Work / More Than Wheels

How do two organizations that believe they could have greater impact by either partnering or merging decide on the best path forward?

Challenge

More Than Wheels, established in 2001, helps its participants get the best deal on a car by negotiating with car dealers to secure the lowest price and providing participants with low-interest loans. Ways to Work, established in 1984, provides loans to low-income families that are most often used to purchase cars. By late 2009, both organizations were exploring how best to grow and scale their impact. More Than Wheels had started opening new offices throughout New England, but quickly realized that establishing the infrastructure for each new office was extremely costly. In addition, the organization was struggling with managing multiple offices and growing its client base. Similarly, Ways to Work faced challenges as it explored options for expansion. The organization wanted its services to benefit a broader pool of clients, and had decided that starting a new service was the best way to achieve this goal.

At the suggestion of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the two organizations began discussions to determine whether a merger between the two organizations might help both organizations overcome their individual challenges and achieve their aspirations to increase their impact—and if so, what the merger would look like.

Project Overview

With support from the SeaChange-Lodestar Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Ways to Work and More Than Wheels hired Root Cause to facilitate a merger exploration process. As a third party, consultants were able to talk with each organization about their individual needs and priorities and represent both organizations’ interests throughout discussions to determine ways they might be able to work together to meet the individual challenges of each while expanding their impact. Our consultants also guided the organizations through the completion of legal and financial due diligence, and synthesized and packaged information about the two organizations in a way that was both respectful of each organization and also helped drive discussions about how the two organizations could work together.

Through this process, Root Cause’s goal was to help Ways to Work and More Than Wheels determine whether the optimal way of working together was to 1) merge into one entity, 2) establish a partnership, or 3) collaborate in order to understand how to improve their own work based on the strengths and lessons learned by the other organization.

Results

As a result of this merger exploration process, More Than Wheels and Ways to Work decided that the best way to move forward was option #3: collaborating to understand how they could each improve their own practices based on the strengths and lessons learned by the other organization. Although they did not decide to merge, both organizations found that the process of engaging in an in-depth, facilitated process in which they exchanged information and discussed strengths, challenges, and ways to improve was extremely beneficial, and helped propel both organizations to a higher level of impact. As discussed in Collaborative Learning: A Case Study on More Than Wheels & Ways to Work, this process of collaborative learning can be a cost-efficient way for two organizations tackling similar social problems to benefit from each other’s strengths and scale their impact more quickly, without having to address the organizational and cultural challenges of a merger.

Relevant expertise and smart problem solving tools.
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Service

Facilitate and Manage Complex Projects

Root Cause provides facilitation, strategic planning, project management, and implementation support to foundations and intermediaries seeking to organize cross-sector collaborations to advance systemic change on a social issue. READ MORE

Resources

Workforce Development

This report includes an overview of the social issue, an investment recommendation, information on the return on investment, and ways to take further action. READ MORE

Resources

Collaborative Learning: A Case Study on More Than Wheels and Ways to Work

This report provides an look at the process of collaborative learning, through a case study of the merger of More Than Wheels and Ways to Work, two poverty reduction programs. Read More. READ MORE

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