We don’t always know who are the right partners.
This resonated strongly with me since one of Connective Impact’s primary goals is to ensure the right partners are working together around issues of critical social, environmental and economic impact so collaboration and effective engagement is possible. I have often found that companies jump into partnership development and other collaborative work without taking the time to evaluate the scenarios in front of them, truly understand the challenges and gaps, and THEN identify the partners to address those gaps. Taking a few simple steps makes the process easier and more effective.
- First, it is critical for the organization to understand its own goals and objectives before even entering into a partnership or collaboration. Otherwise the mission of the organization's sustainability strategy will be compromised and the collaborative group will not be working in a space of comparative advantage.
- Second, identifying potential partners with similar (or ideally same goals) must happen before any action around collaboration is taken. Relying on a backbone organization like Connective Impact or others to help with this can pay off. Once the "Sustainability Match.com" is developed (any entrepreneurs out there?) this process can be much more streamlined and efficient.
- Third, preparation around joint action MUST happen before implementation begins. This involves ensuring goals are aligned among partners, quantitative outcomes are defined, processes made clear and roles identified. Only then can the collaboration begin effective implementation.
- There will be a critical step here in considering the right partners for implementation and again, having a clear sense of partnering criteria, what strengths each of the potential partners bring to the collaboration and the specific action items for each partner is critical.
- Finally, taking the time to evaluate partnerships on a regular basis is a must. I have spoken with many of my clients about this. Partners are partners for a reason: they help you help them. This special dynamic is not permanent. Missions will shift, geographical priorities will change and staff will come and go. Partnerships may change and that is ok. Putting in place a specified, regular check-in point on each partnership will ensure your partnership is built around trust, honestly and integrity of the work. This will also manage the right approach to refinement and adjustment as the collaborative work progresses.
With the right process in place to identify partners and understand mutual goals and joint outcomes, collaboration and effective engagement with others can be made much more actionable.