Partnerships are somewhat on my mind these days as the Campus for Communities continues to morph and grow. With proof of concept regarding the impact of our training, after many years, we’re poised to scale. In large part, it is the result of paying attention to, and learning from those at the
grassroots of our communities who have been successful in ensuring active, creative, and engaged communities.
Like many other organizations and businesses these days we are committed to collaboration and its benefits. The more collaboration there is, the more opportunity there will be to view challenges holistically or from a systems perspective. Additionally, the neutral, collective space that sits between the organizations, businesses, or sectors involved in partnerships, provides a meeting place for the individual and organizational knowledge, expertise, and talents. This pooling of ideas, resources, and information is what often leads to innovation, as well as to the reduction of overlaps and duplication.
Strengthening the Fabric Of Our Work
Like many others I’ve learned about both personal and work-related partnerships by being part of some that were good and some I’d rather not think about. As with a good marriage, a good partnership has the potential to enrich who you are, what you do, and how you do it. I’ve often thought partnerships could be compared to fabric. Even though one’s existing fabric might be fine, it can be enriched and strengthened by the right partner who weaves in, mixes and mingles their own unique strands of thread and fibre. The resulting mix has the potential to be synergistically rich and strong, creating something that is greater than the sum of the respective parts.
For the Campus for Communities, it is especially timely to consider new potential partnerships and collaborations because we’re at a point now where we have a better understanding of the outcomes we can deliver as well as what it is that makes us unique. However, before anyone can consider expanding to work with new partners, there is work to do.
Preparing for a Partnership
When an organization or business is considering the possibility of partners, just as with a marriage, they need to know not only who they are, but whether or not they’re ready to partner. Questions for consideration could include: Why are we entering this collaboration? What value do we have to offer a potential partner? Do they bring value that could help us? Do we have the time and resources to work with a new partner?
The Best Partnerships Are Like a Pie
My experience has shown that the most effective partnerships are those where all those involved have determined they want to be part of the same vision. If that vision is compared to a pie, each partner will see their own unique and distinct piece of the pie. Most importantly, each partner will be happy with their particular piece of the pie and won’t be as interested in each other’s piece! Unfortunately, assembling and baking that kind of pie will often take time and patience.
Make Sure You’re Teaming Up with Those Rowing in the Same Direction
In addition to the common vision, research shows that for a collaboration to be successful there must be a collectively-designed and owned plan. The collaboration must also allow the individual partners to utilize their respective strengths for the benefit of everyone involved. All partners will need to have the opportunity to contribute their expertise, ideas, and information to the implementation of the collaboration. Along the way, priority needs to be given to discussing values, principles, and policies that will address the practicalities of working together. Much of the focus will need to be placed on the development of strategies that will ensure open and honest communication.
Figure Out the Long And The Short of It
Addressing the above issues will help your organization or business determine the intensity of the potential partnership. It could be that your collaboration is informal and short term with each partner retaining its own decision-making and responsibility. On the other hand, your collaboration could fall at the opposite end of the spectrum with a partnership that is more formal and long term with more decision-making and accountability to one another. Of course your collaboration could also fall on the continuum somewhere within those two extremes.
The Right People Doing the Right Things at the Right Times
When it comes right down to it, any partnership will need to be about having the right people together at the right time doing the right things because ultimately partnerships are about people pulling together in the right direction. For sure it will be challenging but in the end it is really quite simple - collaboration means we do something better when we do it together.