What problem does this solve?
There is a learning pattern related to outreach that emphasizes the importance of understanding the shared goals that an organization has with Wikimedia goals, as a way to define the purpose and outcomes of a partnership. Another learning pattern stresses the need to clearly define expectations of the organizations and people involved in a partner initiative. This is good advice. But there is another foundational ingredient, which is to establish trust and rapport among the people who are responsible for creating the partnership and getting the buy-in from those who will be executing the partnership initiative.
What is the solution?
To build trust, this requires skillful interpersonal interactions where the person seeking the partnership meets the appropriate representatives in person, shows curiosity to learn about their perspective, needs, and strengths; and also connects with each individual as a human. This also means approaching each person with the attitude that their (and their organization's) goals, challenges, and needs are relevant and important to understand. Be curious, actively listen, and show enthusiasm and/or appreciation for what others are doing in service to their goals. Demonstrate your understanding by reflecting back what you heard, and ask whether you've understood it correctly. This empathetic approach will set the stage for a much more successful partnership. It's also important not just do this the titular head of an organization, but also with those who will be responsible for executing on any partnership activities that are agreed upon. Without the trust and buy-in of all involved, there is a greater potential for misunderstanding or sabotaging behavior to crop up.
Whenever and however possible, use in-person interactions to establish your connection with others. If you are located far away from the people you are interacting with, a virtual meeting with video can be an adequate substitute. Consider other factors that may make the conversation more comfortable, such as language barriers, jargon, timezone differences, or cultural factors. It's important to be able to observe body language and nonverbal cues, as well as tone. It may take several conversations to both learn enough about the organization and key people, as well as to effectively communicate what your project is and determine how you might work together toward common goals.
Once you have created a foundation of trust and understanding, then email and other text-based communication can be used more frequently.
Things to consider
When to use
- Understanding the shared goals of an external organization and Wikimedia
- Clarity of expectations when setting up a partnership