In 2014 when I launched the company it was because I knew mission-driven companies and organizations needed more direction for finding the best partners to amplify their impact, particularly in supply chains and in rural communities where companies are often dependent upon inputs, ingredients for products and raw materials. Back then I developed the methodology that we still use, focused on prioritizing goals in the first place, developing strong partner relationships and being clear on roles and responsibilities.
Inevitably companies, nonprofits and even governments can’t address every challenge or impediment alone. By relying on partnerships, any mission-driven company can succeed and advance impact with the focus that we all so critically need.
So what have we learned in the last 5+ years on partnerships, and why are we going back to basics?
1. We want to keep our focus on the importance of partnerships in delivering impact. Any combination of actors can and should work together if the outcome leads to greater results than what an actor can do on its own. What is needed for effective collaboration is a process for stakeholder engagement and strategy development that is based on (1) preparedness, (2) critical listening, (3) role identification and (4) quality measurement. To get started, an organization must prioritize its goals and understand the space in which its goals are achievable. We call this “priority setting” (nothing revolutionary here folks).
2. I would argue that almost always, true aspirational social impact goals MUST involve others. Alignment may not be perfect but if missions do not overlap, there is a large risk of imbalance and ultimately failure.
3. Listening to each other and ensuring a level of honesty and direct communication is paramount for effective partnership building. Organizations need to understand the other players and their roles. Who are potential collaborators? What groups are already out there? Where is the best place to start the effort?
4. Niche identification and role assignment ensures a level of clarity and efficiency in the collaboration. Not every actor has the same strengths, and tasks must be distributed to ensure the appropriate use of resources and for effective delivery of outcomes.
5. No partnership, project or collaborative program is effective without the right measurement of progress, impact and adaptive management.
Consistent throughout is the right preparation and consistent communication. That and a central organization or leader to guide the collaborative group down the path of strategy development. That's why Connective Impact is still playing an important role in this space! Want to try our methodology? Contact us here.
In response to many requests from orgs interested in dabbling in our methodology, we’ve also developed an online platform to take you through our partnership strategy process through in your own time and at your own pace. You can access it here.