What are the keys to creating and managing successful partnerships?

Click on the tips below for more information.

Focus on an important need. (top)

  • Successful partnerships take time to establish and nurture. The decision to establish a partnership should begin with the belief that an important need can best be met by creating a partnership.

Adopt a shared vision. (top)

  • Make sure specific mutual goals are identified, understood and agreed upon. The shared vision should evolve from full engagement of all partners in the relationship. This vision should reflect the broad body of work to be completed and each project or initiative to be undertaken.

Understand each partner's mission and organizational culture. (top)

  • Every organization has its own culture that is built over time based upon its mission, its practices, its people, its governing values, its traditions and its institutional history. In any partnership arrangement, it is important to acknowledge and understand these different organizational cultures, to respect them, and to find ways these factors can contribute to strengthen the mutual endeavor. The most successful partnerships are those that value differences and find ways to integrate them into a workable operating culture for the partnership.

Negotiate a formal agreement that outlines the specifics. (top)

  • Partnerships need formal written agreements and work plans that define mutual interests and expectations of the partners, the roles and responsibilities of each partner, and that establish accountability for the work to be conducted. The formal agreement serves as a mutually binding contract and a touchstone for ensuring each partner acknowledges and carries out assigned responsibilities.

  • Important elements of a formal agreement:
  • Scope of work clearly identified.
  • Time lines and identification of individuals responsible for ensuring work is completed.
  • Identification of resources needed and plan to obtain resources
  • Plan for regular partner communications about work conducted under the agreement.
  • Determine lifespan of partnership agreement.
  • Sample Model Partnership Agreements

Ensure the partnership is wholly owned by each partner organization. (top)

  • To succeed, partnerships need to be truly understood and embraced by the entire staff of the partner organizations. Partnerships often originate as a vision of an individual or group of individuals within an organization, and the compelling reasons for and excitement about the possibilities for the outcomes are not shared and understood by the entire organization. It is crucial for the principal people in partnership agreements to invest time and energy to build ownership of the partnership at all levels of the partnering organizations. The goal is to build the sense of team and added value by conducting the partnership work.

Diversify the resource base for the partnership. (top)

  • The most successful partnerships develop multiple and dependable sources of sustained support. Develop and periodically update a comprehensive business plan that addresses both short- and long-term sources of support.

Monitor and evaluate work being conducted under the partnership. (top)

  • Mechanisms that allow partners and others to monitor and evaluate work being conducted under a partnerships helps the partners determine if short and long-term goals are being achieved. Monitoring and evaluation also allows the partners to adaptively manage the partnership to accommodate for any mid-course corrections that may be needed. Monitoring and evaluation also provide a built-in framework for accountability, which demonstrates to partners and others that resources are being used effectively to achieve goals consistent with the missions of the partnering organizations.

Recognize and celebrate accomplishments. (top)

  • Partners who have successful partnerships look for every opportunity to celebrate project successes or key benchmarks in the evolution of the partnership. Recognizing and celebrating accomplishments enhances visibility for the partners and their work together and helps motivate and spur people on to new challenges. Especially when big picture results are going to take time to achieve, it is important to celebrate early successes and milestones to help build momentum and a sense of accomplishment.

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