Partnerships & Resource Development/Tips and suggestions for building successful partnerships
Tips and suggestions for building successful partnerships
Partnerships usually have the following characteristics
- All the parties involved have some sort of personal stake in the partnership
- All the partners are working towards a common aim
- The partners have a similar ethos or system of beliefs
- The partners work together over a reasonable period of time
- There is agreement amongst the partners that a partnership is necessary
- There is an understanding of the value of what each partner can contribute
- There is respect and trust between the different partners
Partnerships are also successful because…
- They share creativity, risk, responsibility and resources
- Participants are able to feed off each other’s energy and enthusiasm
- They can attract more funding from a diverse range of sources
- They highlight different issues, problems and solutions
- There is more potential for productivity/efficiency
- Service delivery is often more effective
- They offer support and diversity
Other key ingredients to making a partnership work are…
- Clarity of information – always tell your partners exactly what is planned
- Consultation – before you start, get to the heart of the problems you’re facing and invite everyone to give feedback and ideas
- Deciding together – after you’ve encouraged everyone to provide additional ideas, work through each one together and decide the best way forward
- Acting together – after you have decided on the course of action, ensure that each willing member of the partnership is involved in carrying it out
Here are some key questions you must ask when considering forming your partnership …
- What are you trying to achieve, and how will you explain that to others?
- Is your plan viable?
- Is it a long-term or a short- term project?
- Will you need just a few or many partners?
- Will your partners have to contribute money?
- Where will you get money?
- What other organizations are involved in helping your client group?
- How do those organizations operate?
- How effective are other organizations at providing their service?
- Which organizations could help in planning or organizing your operations?
- Can you see gaps between your work and that of a potential partner, or any duplication?
After you have dealt with the initial questions you can begin to lay the groundwork for the partnership. Here are some guidelines on how to make a start …
- Identify the stakeholders who can help or hinder the project
- Differentiate between who you really need as partners and who would want to be a partner
- Before approaching potential partners, make sure you have support and agreement within your own organization about working with others
- Make informal contact with potential partners to find out about their attitudes and interests before putting out formal proposals
- Communicate with your potential partners in a language they will understand and focus on what they may want to achieve
- Plan the partnership process step by step, for example, a new organization may well take a year to set up and this would need to be budgeted into the project’s timescale
Trust is an essential criterion for partnership. When you are seeking partners it is vital that you deal with any issues about trust and accountability first. To help establish trust, focus on the ways you can work together and actively seek out any shared values and ways working. Once you have entered into partnership you need to further develop this trust.
You can do this by…
- Meeting people informally
- Delivering what you promise
- Being open and honest about what you are trying to achieve and about any problems or barriers that exist
- Having no hidden agendas
Funding a partnership
A partnership’s success will depend heavily on the resources it has at its disposal. It is also easier for potential partners to commit to a partnership if they know that it will be properly financed or, at least, if they know that adequate funding can be sourced. One of the major benefits of establishing a partnership is that it can win grants for specific projects, so you should communicate this information to your potential partners.
Here are some tips for creating and running good partnerships …
- Take time to build the partnership
- Have an effective management structure
- Develop a shared an aspirational vision of what might be achieved and set a ‘stretch’ mission
- Develop compatible ways of working and be flexible
- Appoint a leader who is respected by all the partners
- Ensure that each partner shares their mandates and agendas
- Have open avenues of communication and use a facilitator if necessary
- Ensure that the partners never lose sight of the vision and mission
- Make decisions collaboratively and always strive to reach consensus
Warning signs that signal your partnership may be in trouble
Here are some classic warning signs of partnerships in trouble …
- Evidence that some partners have hidden agendas
- Unrealistic goals
- Lack of clear purpose
- Lack of communication
- One partner manipulates or dominates
- A history of conflict among key interests
- Key interests missing from the partnership
- Differences of philosophy and ways of working
- An unequal and unacceptable balance of power and control
- The financial and time commitments outweigh the potential benefits