Putting the partnerships & collaboration principles of good practice into action
Your organization, The Great Earth Society, has some great ideas for public engagement during the upcoming International Development Week. Not only that, you’ve just received some extra funding to implement public engagement activities related to environmental awareness, which is this year’s International Development Week theme.
However, being a small organization, you could more fully implement your ideas if you were able to partner with other organizations that could not only augment the money available but could also help with the organizing and marketing of the event.
Your organizing committee knows some of the individuals involved in the international office of the local Happy Valley College, but in previous dealings with that group, you have come away feeling completely overwhelmed, powerless to make your own case or to stand your ground when decisions are made. You also know the College is already partnering with the local International Council of Good Works, which further complicates the picture. You feel that the three organizations could have a real impact building on the shared goals of each of your organizations related to international development and public engagement, but you are leery of being ‘swallowed up’ by the other organizations and therefore unable to meet your own organization’s goals.
You aren’t certain that the two organizations realize that your group has often felt excluded and disrespected in past collaborations. You bring good organizational skills and huge grassroots support to the table, while they are bigger organizations with more experience and more money to put towards activities. You all share similar goals related to public engagement and international development, as well as a passion for protection of the environment both at home and around the world.
In discussing the situation, your International Development Week Planning Committee decides to put into practice some of the new ideas you’ve learned related to public engagement partnerships and collaboration. The Planning Committee decides to approach the other two organizations with your ideas regarding a possible collaboration for International Development Week activities – specifically, a large joint display and activities related to the environment.
Before you approach them, however, you write up your own ‘rules of engagement,’ which identify the common goals you believe you share, the strengths of each of the partners and the type of activities you believe the three organizations could undertake. You also identify the funding that you are able to bring to the event and the parameters and guidelines around that funding which your organization must utilize. You also determine that planning for consensus building is important and identify ways that this can be done in meetings so that everyone feels respected when decisions are made.
The Great Earth Society organizing committee also decides to identify in advance some of the areas for possible conflict and determine your own stance in these areas so that you can feel prepared when the discussion comes. You also outlined some ideas for timelines and a communication protocol. Because your funding is tied to results, you also have a draft of an evaluation tool you’d like to see agreed upon for the activity by all three partners. In this way, you’ve been able to outline your own objectives, expectations, roles and responsibilities as well as what you are able to contribute to the activity.
You meet with the other organizations, and the first meeting turns out surprisingly well. They’re grateful that you’ve already put in time preparing your own goals, objectives and expectations and are ready to assist them in determining how best to work together and how the work of the College and Council could help achieve the Great Earth Society’s goals while still achieving many of their own goals. There are a few sticky issues, but having identified them in advance you’re prepared to discuss them and come to a consensus. The group is excited to organize a super International Development Week event. More meetings are planned.
The Great Earth Society is like many smaller organizations that feel they sometimes have to struggle to be heard when partnering with other organizations. Having had some negative partnership/collaboration experiences in the past, the organization determined that the best defence is to be very well prepared when wanting to form partnerships. The organization followed good practices related to establishing partnerships by:
a) Reviewing their own goals, vision, guidelines and organizational structure to make sure they well understood their own organizational parameters. They also reviewed the goals and aims of potential partner organizations to ensure that shared common ground in terms of public engagement.
b) In trying to be very clear about the type of activity they wanted to implement, they prepared the objectives, goals, timeline and parameters of the activity they expected to undertake together, along with what their organization could contribute. They also identified what they hoped the other organizations could contribute while leaving the opportunity for them to bring their own ideas forward.
c) To avoid conflict in which they felt they had no voice, they identified a number of effective consensus-building practices and were ready to implement them during meetings should the need arise.
d) The organization also identified any issues that might occur around funding – and knew explicitly what their organization required of them and what they hoped the other organizations could contribute. They were aware of restrictions and knew that they also had to be sensitive about their partner organizations’ funding restrictions.
e) They established good communications timelines for their shared activity.
f) They also identified a way of evaluating both the activity and the collaboration/partnership process itself to provide information for their next event.