Building Effective Relationships

3.A Find and Develop the Right Partners

The right partners will share a vision, be committed to the collective goals and have the competencies to make it work. Remember that as the collaboration evolves, the needs and interests of partners may change and strategies should be in place to address turnover and recruit new people.

How do we select and keep the right partners?
Collaborations achieve outcomes when all partners have a high stake in the results. Seek out partners who are closely aligned with the vision of the collaboration, share the same values and have the skills necessary to accomplish the goals. Be clear about the distinction between the core partners who will achieve outcomes and be held accountable, and the broader stakeholders who provide input and are kept informed. And don’t take your relationships with core partners for granted. Create an environment that promotes candid conversations about expectations and allows for full participation in setting and renewing the directions.
How do we bring in new partners?
New partners can help to revitalize and sustain your collaboration efforts. A number of circumstances might prompt the need for new partners. You may have to ask a partner to leave because they aren’t contributing, or are contributing in a negative way. You can also find that the collaboration is missing an important perspective or requires different competencies and resources. Use the same intentional recruitment process as you did at the beginning of the collaboration. Establish clear strategies for integrating new partners smoothly into the collaboration, such as providing orientation sessions and matching them with mentors who can answer questions and offer advice.
How do we maintain momentum as people change?
Turnover and inconsistent representation from partner organizations can slow or stop a collaboration from advancing. Learn about why it’s occurring; it may signal a lack of commitment or there could be good reasons for it, such as job changes. If there are alternate representatives from one organization, think about strategies that create clear transitions, such as sharing regular updates, decisions and documents. Also ensure the representatives all have the authority from their organization to make timely decisions.
Importance of Selecting the Right Partners
The building of a showcase nonprofit centre for the arts attracted a large number of prospective partners. When the time came to contribute resources so that construction could begin, some partners were in financial trouble or had appointed new staff representatives that weren’t able to make appropriate and timely decisions. When these partners were eventually asked to leave the collaboration, the process was difficult and the affected partners felt both frustrated and disappointed. The learning for those remaining in the collaboration was to be clear upfront with partners about expectations, to communicate regularly, and to articulate an exit protocol.