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 +A short guide to partnerships by David Wilcox
 +=============================================
 +
 +Introduction
 +------------
 +
 +The aim of this guide is to highlight issues and offer some guidance in
 +three circumstances:​
 +
 +-   ​Starting a partnership
 +
 +-   ​Managing or being involved in a partnership
 +
 +-   ​Engaging with a partnership ‘from outside’.
 +
 +The first draft of the guide was written for people involved in local
 +regeneration partnerships – amended for a workshop on academic
 +partnerships. Partnership issues are fairly universal!
 +
 +The issues important to you will depend on when and where you stand in
 +relationship to the partnership,​ and I have tried to indicate that in
 +the guide. The guide covers:
 +
 +-   What are partnerships – the benefits, barriers and challenges
 +
 +-   ​Thinking about partnerships – some models
 +
 +-   ​Reality checks and tips
 +
 +-   Key issues
 +
 +There is deliberately some overlap between the sections, because I think
 +it is helpful to look at partnerships from different angles.
 +
 +What are partnerships – the benefits and barriers
 +-------------------------------------------------
 +
 +You may come across several different types of partnerships:​
 +
 +-   Large ‘official’ partnerships set up by major institutions
 +
 +-   More bottom-up partnerships initiated by nonprofit organisations or
 +    groups
 +
 +-   ​Short-term alliances created around a particular project or
 +    programme.
 +
 +-   Other forms of collaboration to share information and offer mutual
 +    support that may be better seen as networks
 +
 +It is difficult to provide a formal definition of partnership that suits
 +all circumstances,​ but the key characteristic is that **the partners aim
 +to achieve something they could not do alone, by pooling skills and
 +other resources. To do this they need a shared vision of their goals,
 +and a way of working together which realises this ambition. This may
 +involve a long-term formal structure, or a shorter-term agreement.**
 +
 +In each situation there will be some benefits and opportunities in
 +partnerships working – and also some barriers, and challenges in making
 +the partnership work. For example:
 +
 +### Benefits and opportunities
 +
 +-   ​Making one plus one equal more than two – sharing ideas and
 +    resources towards common goals.
 +
 +-   ​Gaining access to the skills of others.
 +
 +-   ​Mutual support to maintain enthusiasm and commitment.
 +
 +-   ​Learning from seeing things differently,​ through others’ eyes.
 +
 +-   ​Ability to secure funding that requires partnership working.
 +
 +-   ​Opportunities to reach a wider audience
 +
 +### Barriers and challenges
 +
 +-   ​Suspicion of others involved, and lack of trust.
 +
 +-   Fear of losing a separate identity.
 +
 +-   ​Unacceptable inequalities of power and control.
 +
 +-   ​Failure to recognise different personality types and communication
 +    styles.
 +
 +-   Lack of clarity on roles, responsibilities and leadership.
 +
 +-   ​Confusions about the nature and style of involvement – by
 +    representation or participation.
 +
 +-   Time necessary to develop relationships and feasible plans.
 +
 +Thinking about partnerships
 +---------------------------
 +
 +This section offers models for thinking about partnerships:​ the ladder
 +of participation;​ three different perspectives on partnership;​ and the
 +idea of the life-cycle of a partnership.
 +
 +### Partnerships that may not be – the participation ladder
 +
 +In real partnerships the partners have some equality, and are
 +collaborating to do something everyone agrees about. Unfortunately
 +partnership has become something of a spray-on word, and you may be
 +called a ‘partner’ but find you don’t really have much say in what is
 +going on. Here’s some theory…
 +
 +In 1969 Sherry Arnstein, writing about citizen involvement in planning
 +in the US, described an eight-step ladder of participation. The steps
 +relate to how much control people have in relation to the main power
 +holders. I have altered this to five stances, and suggest that
 +partnership occurs at the levels of deciding and acting together. In
 +some circumstances less involvement may be appropriate – but it
 +shouldn’t be called partnership. There’s more on this in my Guide to
 +Effective Participation.[^1]
 +
 +  ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +  ![](media/​image1.png) ​                                                                                            ​![](media/​image2.png)
 +  Arnstein’s original ladder, 1969. Suggests top of the ladder is best – but power-holder often keep people down.   ​Revised version DW 1994 – horses for courses. Sometimes just consultation is appropriate – but partnership is deciding and acting together.
 +  ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +The model, described in more detail in the participation guide, suggests
 +that not everyone will wish to be as involved as everyone else. It
 +depends on how important the issue or project is to them. How involved
 +people are may also vary over time.
 +
 +If you are engaging with a partnership,​ where are you on the ladder –
 +what is on offer? If you are starting a partnership,​ what influence are
 +you offering others? Here’s some of the things you may hear (or say) and
 +some questions to ask.
 +
 +“We are in partnership with our community “. (Who in the community? What
 +influence/​power will they have? What help will they get?)
 +
 +“We want everyone to be involved”. (Does everyone want to/need to be
 +involved? Perhaps some people want more involvement than others).
 +
 +“We want one or two representatives”. (Why not use other ways to help
 +other people be involved.)
 +
 +“We don’t have time to involve more people”. (Why not have a planning
 +weekend or other event with a facilitator).
 +
 +“We really value volunteers”. (Why don’t you give them more help and do
 +things in ways they can understand?​)
 +
 +### Three ways of looking at partnerships
 +
 +I find it helpful to use a ‘three-bubble’ diagram to look at
 +partnerships through three different perspectives:​
 +
 +-   The ‘business’ that the partnership is doing… the projects and the
 +    funding necessary to achieve its goals. Also the paperwork and
 +    jargon that can be baffling to anyone trying to engage with the
 +    partnership.
 +
 +-   The structure that binds the partners together, expressed in a
 +    constitution or agreement, meetings and procedures.
 +
 +-   The people involved. All too often we forget that people differ in
 +    personality type, and ways in which they prefer to communicate and
 +    work. Some people love ‘blue skies’ thinking – others the practical
 +    details. Some can digest lengthy reports, others prefer a diagram.
 +    Some people may revel in committee work, while others are much
 +    better at the essential networking that goes on between formal
 +    events.
 +
 +Looking at partnerships like this helps emphasise that we need all three
 +elements. People and a structure can end up as a talking shop if they
 +don’t have projects, a plan and some resources. People with great ideas
 +and funding need to get organised. And it is no good having great plans,
 +funds and a constitution if you don’t have people with the necessary
 +skills and confidence.
 +
 +Partnerships need partners – and people with some shared gaols and
 +values. As we’ll see from the issues discussed below, partnerships are
 +about relationships,​ and need trust in order to work. See the
 +discussions of these issues at the end of the guide.
 +
 +### Life cycle of a partnership
 +
 +Partnerships are best seen as processes to build relationships and get
 +things done – not just formal structures. There will be different
 +challenges at different times in the life of a partnership,​ whether you
 +are starting or involved in the partnership,​ or getting engaged from
 +outside.
 +
 +At the outset, it is important to reflect on the benefits and some of
 +the barriers – see above.
 +
 +Here are four key stages in the life of a partnership. There is a longer
 +discussion on the Ourpartnership web site[^2] based on phases of
 +connecting, contracting,​ conflict, collaborating,​ and closing. See also
 +The Guide to Development Trusts and Partnerships[^3] for the process of
 +setting up a formal partnership.
 +
 +###​Initiating
 +
 +-   ​Recognise that who started the partnership will influence its
 +    initial style of operation…. and this may need to change.
 +
 +-   The spark for starting may be, for example, funding… but may not be
 +    enough in itself to keep the partnership together in the longer
 +    term. See ‘visioning’ below.
 +
 +-   ​Reflect from the outset on whether you need a substantial
 +    partnership,​ or a ‘lighter’ or shorter-term arrangement.
 +
 +Starting
 +--------
 +
 +-   ​Review what is already happening in the field, and who’s who.
 +
 +-   Look at other partnership projects and programmes for ideas
 +
 +-   Get to know your partners, their styles of working and preferred
 +    means of communicating.
 +
 +-   Run a ‘visioning’ workshop to share understanding of problems,
 +    projects and activities to meet your goals.
 +
 +-   Set up interim arrangement for making decisions, staffing,
 +    administration,​ project management.
 +
 +-   ​Develop a business plan that includes training and support for
 +    partners as well as project development,​ funding, staffing,
 +    constitution or partnership agreement.
 +
 +-   ​Develop and start projects.
 +
 +-   Pay attention to partners and the people involved as well as the
 +    projects, with training, support and socialising.
 +
 +-   ​Involve others outside the core partnership where they have a stake
 +    in projects and/or your overall programme.
 +
 +-   ​Reflect on what’s working and what isn’t.
 +
 +-   Plan for the longer-term – or finishing. Is your partnership still
 +    really needed – is it adding any value?
 +
 +Reality checks and tips
 +-----------------------
 +
 +Here are some reality checks to help you decide how much involvement in
 +a partnership you are being offered – or want. There are also some tips
 +on engaging with partnerships,​ and for building partnerships.
 +
 +### Reality checks: how much participation do you have (or want) in the partnership?​
 +
 +-   Are you recognised and valued as a partner?
 +
 +-   Are you seeking/​given representative status, and/or involved in
 +    decisions in other ways?
 +
 +-   Is the diversity of interests affected recognised?
 +
 +-   Are equal opportunities policies in place and implemented?​
 +
 +-   Are volunteers valued?
 +
 +-   Is communication two-way and suitable to your needs and style?
 +
 +-   Are programme and project procedures clear and accessible?
 +
 +-   Are key interests resourced to participate?​
 +
 +-   Are understanding,​ knowledge and skills developed to support
 +    partnership working?
 +
 +### Tips for engaging with partnerships
 +
 +-   Be clear on what you want out of the partnership.
 +
 +-   Check how much influence is offered (where are you on the ladder of
 +    participation?​)
 +
 +-   Find out who controls the money, and who makes decisions.
 +
 +-   ​Don’t end up as a ‘token’ representative.
 +
 +-   ​Don’t accept committees as the only ways to do things – suggest
 +    workshop or other events as well.
 +
 +-   Look for allies – build relationships. Be sociable.
 +
 +-   Put yourself in other people’s shoes – help them get what they want.
 +
 +-   Keep asking ‘why’. Is there a hidden agenda?
 +
 +-   Ask for the partnership to communicate in ways you can understand.
 +
 +-   Ask for a mentor who will work with your group if that would help
 +    you.
 +
 +-   Build your own ‘constituency’ and credibility.
 +
 +-   Be honest – build trust.
 +
 +### Tips for partnership building
 +
 +-   ​Clarify your own goals in forming a partnership. What are you
 +    looking for – and what are you offering?
 +
 +-   Find out what is already happening in the area, who’s who, and who
 +    might be a partner or involved in other ways.
 +
 +-   Spend time getting to know potential partners.
 +
 +-   Think about partnership as a process of forming relationships to do
 +    things, not just a structure. Make commitment, and trust, the centre
 +    line.
 +
 +-   Run a workshop with partners to develop a shared vision and plan
 +    that process, built around the tasks and projects to achieve your
 +    goals. Check if you really need a partnership rather than a network,
 +    or other alliance.
 +
 +-   Set up interim arrangements for decision-making. Decide the precise
 +    structure after you are clear what it is you are trying to achieve.
 +    Then develop a partnership agreement or – if appropriate –
 +    constitution.
 +
 +-   ​Respect the different personality types of those involved, and their
 +    different communication styles. Use a mix of methods to communicate,​
 +    including electronic if possible
 +
 +-   ​Organise around tasks and projects, with a leader for each task
 +    group.
 +
 +-   ​Develop a business plan covering projects, core costs and staffing,
 +    funding and structure.
 +
 +-   Be prepared to deal with conflict among partners and members of
 +    communities. In doing that focus on outcomes and how to get them to
 +    overlap.
 +
 +-   Look at options. There is usually more than one way of getting what
 +    you want to achieve.
 +
 +-   Look outwards as well as inwards. Practice the community involvement
 +    you may be urging on other organisations!
 +
 +Key issues
 +----------
 +
 +Here are some of the key issues and challenges for partnerships,​
 +identified in the workshops. There is a longer A-Z at the Partnerships
 +Online site[^4]
 +
 +### Accountability
 +
 +Accountability means knowing who is answerable to whom - often difficult
 +in a partnership where paid staff have different employers, and
 +volunteers a range of allegiances. To clarify accountability in practice
 +consider: Who can stop someone doing something? Whose permission is
 +needed for someone to act? Who pays them? Think of accountability
 +through a process of community involvement as well as representation,​
 +and in relation to specific projects as much as structures.
 +
 +### Added value
 +
 +The partnership must be adding some value to what is happening already –
 +or there isn’t much point in setting it up (see benefits and
 +opportunities above). Partnerships can outstay their initial purpose, in
 +which case it may be time to plan an exit. (See the lifecycle above).
 +
 +### Confidence
 +
 +We are all confident and capable in some circumstances – at home, with
 +friends, at work. However, new settings can challenge anyone’s
 +confidence… so make sure new partners are welcome, introduced to the way
 +the partnership works, and given training and support where needed.
 +Expect the same if you are engaging with a partnership. Confidence can
 +be undermined by the use of jargon, and a failure to understand
 +different communication styles. Some people love paperwork, others
 +prefer face-to-face explanations. Email can be a blessing for fast
 +communication – but for others technology can sap rather than build
 +confidence. Respect differences.
 +
 +### Control
 +
 +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:
 +
 +-   ​Checking whether ‘partnership’ is the right label for what is being
 +    attempted. Would consultation or contract be more appropriate?​ (See
 +    ladder of participation above)
 +
 +-   Being explicit about accountability and terms of reference.
 +
 +-   ​Setting up formal partnerships when the aim is to share control.
 +
 +-   ​Dispersing control by creating a network structure around projects.
 +
 +### Delivery
 +
 +At the end of the day partnerships are about delivering projects or
 +activities, which benefit those involved, or others. It is tempting to
 +try and jump straight to the action – however, recognise that work is
 +needed to get agreement on what needs to be done, and how to do it. See
 +Lifecycle of a partnership.
 +
 +### Expectations
 +
 +Conflicts can arise in partnerships because people are looking for
 +different things, and may not understand each other’s hopes and
 +expectations. That’s one reason why it is important to see partnership
 +as a process of creating a shared vision, building trust, and learning
 +to communicate. See Lifecycle of a partnership.
 +
 +### Learning
 +
 +If partnerships are processes, one of the main activities for those
 +involved should be learning…. how to understand and engage with others,
 +how to deal with new challenges. Reflect on whether the way the
 +partnership operates helps everyone concerned learn and develop new
 +skills and ideas. Is it all formal committees and paperwork, or are
 +there more creative sessions and opportunities to work with others? Some
 +formal training is also likely to be necessary.
 +
 +### Ownership
 +
 +Partnerships work well if those involved feel some commitment, and that
 +comes from being involved in developing the vision, plans and projects.
 +A sense of ‘not invented here’ kills partnerships,​ which is why those
 +who ‘own’ the partnership at the outset will do well to share that stake
 +with others.
 +
 +### Participation
 +
 +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. See the
 +ladder of participation above. Partnerships require participation – but
 +not all participation is a partnership.
 +
 +### Power
 +
 +Issues of power and control are central to the development of
 +partnerships. For example:
 +
 +-   Do all key interests have an equal ability or opportunity to
 +    participate in developing in the partnership if they wish?
 +
 +-   Who designs the partnership building process; to whom are they
 +    accountable?​
 +
 +-   Who sets the timetable and controls the funds?
 +
 +-   Who makes the final decisions?
 +
 +The rhetoric of partnership can often be used to disempower people if it
 +is used - consciously or unconsciously - to mask these fundamental
 +questions. Partnerships should aim to increase the 'power to' of
 +partners – their confidence and ability to participate and deliver -
 +while avoiding imbalances of 'power over' that are unacceptable to some
 +partners.
 +
 +### Representation
 +
 +The conventional way to address accountability of the partnership is to
 +elect or appoint people from different interest groups to the
 +partnership. However, this may not be enough to ensure the involvement
 +of wider interests, and it may lead to over-large committees or working
 +groups. It is easy for representatives to become just tokens. In
 +addition to appropriate representation,​ look for other ways to involve
 +key interests in the work of the partnership. See the Guide to Effective
 +Participation referred to elsewhere.
 +
 +### Resources
 +
 +Resources are more than money. In starting or running a partnership look
 +for other groups that may be prepared to share premises, equipment,
 +staff, contacts and ideas if there is also something in it for them. One
 +of the main reasons for partnerships is to reduce the need for new
 +resources.
 +
 +### Structure
 +
 +In forming a partnership,​ there may be a temptation to look for a model
 +constitution,​ and to think that in agreeing membership, committees,
 +procedures and legal formalities you have created a partnership. These
 +arrangements may be necessary – but the precise structure should be
 +designed to fit the purpose of the partnership. Set up some interim
 +arrangements for decision-making while you work this out, and consider
 +whether you need a new organisation or whether written agreements
 +between partners will be enough.
 +
 +### Timescale
 +
 +Partnerships almost always take longer than you think – so draw up a
 +timeline reflecting the lifecycle (see above), mark out the different
 +tasks, see what has to happen before what, and put some dates along the
 +line.
 +
 +### Trust
 +
 +The heart of partnership working is building relationships and trust.
 +That takes time and more than formal meetings. Work on projects
 +together, however small; socialise; share ideas; be open and honest with
 +your partners; put yourself in their shoes and try and help them achieve
 +what they want.
 +
 +### Values
 +
 +Values – together with trust – are key elements in building the
 +relationship essential for successful partnerships. 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. 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 content of this guide may be used under the terms of the
 +Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons license*
 +[**http://​creativecommons.org/​projects/​international/​uk/​translated-license**](http://​creativecommons.org/​projects/​international/​uk/​translated-license)
 +
 +*In practice that means you may use the work for nonprofit purposes
 +provided you make attribution to David Wilcox at*
 +[**http://​www.partnerships.org.uk/​part**](http://​www.partnerships.org.uk/​part)*.
 +You may develop these materials, provided any use is under the same
 +license. That is, you must allow others to develop the material further
 +by citing the same license.*
 +
 +*Please get in touch if you would like to discuss further. See footer
 +for details.*
 +
 +[^1]: Guide to Effective Participation available at
 +    http://​www.partnerships.org.uk/​part
 +
 +[^2]: The Ourpartnership includes a longer discussion of partnership
 +    lifecycle.
 +    http://​www.ourpartnership.org.uk/​anncmnt/​anlist.cfm?​ANID=28
 +
 +[^3]: The Guide to Development Trusts and Partnerships.
 +    http://​www.partnerships.org.uk/​part
 +
 +[^4]: A-Z of partnerships and networks.
 +    http://​www.partnerships.org.uk/​AZP/​A-Zp.htm
  
partnerships/part/partguide.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)