The A-Z contains brief items on the topics listed below. It is designed to read in conjunction with other material on this site which deals with collaboration between different interests involved in urban and rural regeneration programme (renewal or revitalisation are terms also used).
The A-Z of Partnerships below was developed in 1994. There's a later version here (2000) with more emphasis on networks. It is a large file (200k) so will take time to load. If you want to use any of the material, please contact me. David Wilcox \«email@example.com>>
Accountability means knowing who is answerable to whom. This may be difficult in a partnership where staff have different employers, the steering group or management committee is not formally constituted, and there are a number of less formal working groups. To clarify accountability consider:
If these questions give different answers, expect problems. See also Action plans, Terms of reference.
Action plans answer questions of: what do we do next? who does it? with what resources? Action plans may be complex plans covering a year or more, or the outcome of a decision-making meeting covering the next few weeks. Action minutes after meetings should ensure something happens, and clarify accountability.
Agendas ensure there is an agreed plan for a meeting. Hidden agendas ensure it is impossible to plan anything. If different interests in a partnership are seeking different outcomes, and not declaring them, the result is likely to be frustration and growing mistrust. Challenge by ask: 'What are we trying to achieve?' See also Outcomes, Team building, Vision.
Aims are a written description of what a group or organisation is trying to achieve, and the objectives are the methods by which they may do that. The different interests in a partnership will all have their own aims and objectives - so focus on where these overlap. See also Mission, Outcomes, Purpose, Vision.
Some of the main barriers to participation and partnership lie in the attitudes people bring to the process. Residents may lack confidence or feel action is not their responsibility. Officials may see getting the job done quickly as a top priority, even if it doesn't meet the needs of all concerned. Councillors may feel their power is eroded by sharing decision making with local people. See also Commitment, Ownership, Stakeholders.
People attending workshops leading up to the New Cities '94 conference gave these examples of why partnerships may not work:
See also Agendas, Control, Communication, Partnership building.
Increasingly partnership organisations must make formal bids for resources, governed by strict guidelines. These bids may trigger the partnership-building process, influence the nature and style of the partnerships, as well as dictate funding. In preparing bids:
Brainstorming is defined as 'a means of getting a large number of ideas from a group of people in a short time'. It is one of the most widely used workshop techniques, and useful when partnerships are trying to shape their agenda and tackle problems creatively.
After you have defined the problem or question:
See also Charts, Workshops.
Any partnership organisation which aims to keep going in the long term needs a business or development plan. For a non-profit organisation the plan will balance the costs and income of three parts of its operation:
The business plan should cover at least three years and show how fundraising and any income earned from projects covers the core costs. See also Companies, Constitution, Fundraising.
A charity is not a particular form of organisation, different from a company or community group. Both may be charities, if they are accepted and registered as such by the Charity Commissioners. (In Scotland and Northern Ireland registration is directly with the Inland Revenue). To be registered as a charity an organisation must restrict its activities to one or more of the following objects:
Charitable status adds credibility to an organisation, provides some tax benefits, and enables it to apply to large charities for funding. In general charities can only make gifts to other charities. There are, however, restrictions on trading and members of any management committee have substantial additional responsibilities as trustees.
These may be flip charts - pads of large paper used with an easel - or simply lining paper tacked to the wall. They are an essential tool of partnership-building, because they help you break out of committee mode. Committees need agendas and minutes - workshops need charts. In using charts:
Committees of partnership organisations can pose particular problems because almost inevitably people come from different background, and probably haven't worked together before. In order to overcome this, run workshops and organise socials.
The centre line of partnership-building is gaining commitment. It depends on developing a shared vision, and some ownership of the ideas which are to be put into practice.
Effective communication involves considering how your message will be received as well as how you send it: the meaning of any communication lies in the response you get. Obvious barriers are:
Community is a term so widely applied that it is in danger of losing any meaning, like 'members of the public'. Aren't we all? It is more useful to think of a large number of over-lapping communities distinguished by the characteristics of their members, and the common interests which tie members together and give these characteristics a shared significance. Because individuals may belong to many different communities at the same time, different allegiances may people pull in different directions. There are likely to be competing and conflicting interests within communities. See also Stakeholders.
A community forum is regular meeting of community activists and interest groups which may also involve local business, political, religious and social organisations. It may be useful for discussion of issues of concern to local interests, and for stimulating contacts and networking. A forum is not so good for turning discussion into action, where some complementary 'do it' organisation like a Development Trust may be needed.
See also Networking, Small groups, Structures.
Partnership bodies can be just as inward looking and autocratic as larger bureaucracies. In planning community involvement:
These issues are dealt with in The Guide to Effective Participation.
A particular form of company, the company limited by guarantee, is increasingly popular as an organisational structure for partnerships. Companies limited by guarantee do not have shareholders - instead their members agree to pay a nominal sum, often onlyy £1, if the company fails. The rights of these members to appoint members of the governing body - the Board - are defined by the constitution - the Memorandum and Articles of Association. The company does not distribute surpluses as profits, but reinvests them in the company. If the members of the Board are unpaid, and the company has appropriate objects, it can seek charitable status.
A constitution sets out governing rules for an organisation. For a company it is the Memorandum and Articles of Association. Constitutions are important at the beginning, when a body is being set up, and when there is an argument about control. Generally:
In my view consultants may be helpful for partnerships if:
It is a mistake to ask consultants to design partnership structures or programmes unless they work closely with all the key interests.
Consultation is the level of participation at which people are offered some choices on what is to happen, but are not involved in developing additional options. As such it is not a level of partnership.
Control in partnerships tends to lie with those who have the money, skills and administration - however well intentioned they may be in seeking to involve others. For that reason partnerships formed around existing organisations may seem very unequal to other participants. Ways around this include:
Development Trusts are 'independent, not-for-profit organisations which take action to renew an area physically, socially and in spirit. They bring together the public, private and voluntary sectors, and obtain financial and other resources from a wide range of organisations and individuals. They encourage substantial involvement by local people and aim to sustain their operations at least in part by generating revenue.' (Creating Development Trusts, HMSO 1988). Also known as community development trusts, they should not be confused with community trusts, which are fundraising and grant-making bodies.
At seminars leading to the New Cities '94 conference, participants identified these factors which could help partnerships work:
A simple checklist to help you think of issues:
In planning any fundraising consider:
Corporate identity is the way everything about an organisation looks and sounds, from the letterhead to the way staff answer the telephone. It is an important issue for a partnership because:
A launch can be useful both externally internally:
The management committee is the governing body for a project or organisation, to which staff are accountable. In a company it is the Board of directors. It is important to strike a balance in composition: little will be achieved if everyone on the committee has to learn how to manage an organisation. However, a committee which has no representation of key interests may well find itself in difficulty.
The media is mainly in the business of interesting and entertaining its users, and of selling itself or advertising. It is not there as a public service to promote your ideas or project. Journalists judge what is news against 'news values' which generally include:
Local journalists have a more relaxed view than Lord Northcliffe, but you do need to consider what's in the story for them. In producing a press release, make sure you have answered the Five Ws plus H.
Meetings are at the heart of partnership building processes, whether social get-togethers, committees, workshops, or public meetings.
For effective meetings, consider:
Mission is what you wish to achieve. The term is much favoured in business management, but can confuse people with its military or evangelical overtones. Purpose is an alternative. See also Aims and objectives, Outcomes, Purpose.
Networking is the important business of making informal contacts, chatting, and picking up further contacts. It is the way to learn:
Networking is important before other more formal information-giving like producing leaflets, staging exhibitions and holding meetings. National networking organisations may also be able to provide you with local contacts, and similar projects elsewhere.
The opposite of ownership, and one of the most significant barriers to participation and partnership. People are far more likely to participate effectively in partnerships if they play a part in developing ideas and action plans.
The way local authorities traditionally work can present major barriers to partnership and community involvement. For example:
Outcomes is used here to describe those general results of plans and actions which you are seeking to achieve. Thinking in terms of outcomes which you may see, hear, feel as well as the more abstract aims and objectives should help clarify what to do to achieve what you want. For partnerships to work well, the outcomes sought by different parties must dovetail to some extent.
Outputs are the measurable results of projects or programmes - homes built, people who have completed training - and are dear to funders who want to know what they are getting for their money.
The stake that people have in an idea, a project or an organisation is fundamental to their commitment. For that reason, early brainstorming workshops, where everyone has a chance to contribute ideas, are important. See also Control.
Participation is used here to describe a process by which individuals, groups and organisations are consulted about or have the opportunity to become actively involved in a project or programme of activity.
Partnerships are formal or informal arrangements to work together to some joint purpose. In my view:
Partnerships do not have to be equal - but the various parties do need to feel that they are involved to an appropriate degree.
Partnerships, like relationships, take time to develop. Are partners after the same thing (outcome)? Do they have the same idea of what is important (values)? Do they trust each other? It may be helpful to think of developing a partnership as a four-stage process:
Planning for Real is a powerful technique for involving individuals and groups in decisions about their neighbourhood, a site or building by producing a three-dimensional model. This and similar model-based techniques can be very effective in involving people because they allow 'hands on' responses, do not rely on written material, and give everyone a say. It is important that:
A great technical aid to collective decision-making, and an improvement on basic Brainstorming. When running workshops give people pads of Post-its to write their ideas on, then stick them on a chart and move them around into groups.
Although widely used, public meetings are not the most effective method of involving people. While they may be useful giving information, and gaining support around a clear-cut issue, they are poor vehicles for debate and decision-making. Classic public meetings with a platform party can easily be dominated by a small number of people, and become stage sets for confrontation.
A statement of purpose, or mission statement, is a summary in a sentence or two of your intention - your aims and objectives. Statements of purpose may start out as broad intentions like 'we aim to create a better place to live and work'. They become meaningful when the aim is followed with statements of how: for example 'by providing advise and support for practical environmental projects'. There may be a number of these 'how to' statements which are objectives. If they are measurable, they become targets. See also Aims and objectives, Mission, Outcomes, Vision.
Large meetings and committees are often unsatisfactory for working through difficult issues. Take some time to break into groups and report back.
Among the committee meetings and workshop sessions allow time for social events where people can get to know each informally.
Stakeholders are those with an interest, because they will be affected or may have some influence.
In order to think through the role of stakeholders:
What is their likely attitude?
What response or change do you want?
What has to be done?
Steering committees are groups, often with wide representation, responsible for the direction of a project. In order to ensure all parties play a part:
See also Structures.
Successful partnerships are not created solely by choosing the right structure, any more than marriages are made by marriage vows. They should be founded on a clear purpose, trust, agreement on responsibilities - and that take time. Consider:
I suggest that for big programmes where a number of interests want a real stake over a long period, go for a company. For short-term projects work through existing structures, and fora. See also Accountability, Constitution, Partnership building, Terms of reference.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It's a good technique to start planning a partnership.
When you are clear what your aim is:
At the start of a partnership building process take stock by carrying out a SWOT analysis, identifying stakeholders and clarifying your aims and objectives.
Team building is the process of helping a group develop shared aims and objectives, values and a plan to put them into action. People working together are better able to get to know each other than, for example, members of a management committee meeting every month or two - so team building workshops can be particularly important for partnerships. I suggest, if possible, bringing in a trainer who specialises in team building to plan a programme. If not, an 'away day' with a facilitator to work on simple techniques like Brainstorming and SWOT can achieve a lot.
Any committee, forum or group needs clear terms of reference covering:
Everything takes longer than you thinkk - even when you know it does. Drawing a timeline is a simple technique to set priorities among activities and events which must be completed in creating a partnership or carrying out programme.
Trust is an essential foundation for all aspects of participation and partnership. It comes from working together and through that discovering shared values and ways of doing things. In order to develop trust:
Values are statements of what we consider important. Since they may be emotive, political, and difficult to express, they are frequently hidden. However it is difficult to understand each other or reach agreement if we are unclear about values. For example, council officers faced with a tight project timetable may be frustrated by a community group which insists on numerous meetings, held in the evenings, leading to the appointment of a representative steering group. The officers value cost-effective delivery of 'product' acceptable to their political masters and the Government; the group values openness and democratic process. In groups where there may be underlying differences of values it is often most productive to concentrate first on what there is in common by discussing outcomes - what you would like to happen at the end of the day - and how you can get there.
The idea of a vision of the future seems to me rather broader than purpose or mission, because it places more emphasis on values and approach - how you do things as well as the result you achieve. Vision may be a helpful term if you are using participation techniques that encourage people to create pictures of what they want, or develop models. Partnerships need vision - and visions.
Workshops are meetings at which a small group, perhaps aided by a facilitator, explore issues, develop ideas and make decisions. They are the less formal and creative counterpart to public meetings and committees. See also Brainstorming, Charts, Post-it notes, Small groups.