What does a partnership mean? There is much common ground in what a partnership should encompass - common interests and goals, shared resources, risk and reward, a relationship built on trust and flexibility, and the creation, rather than just the exchange, of value.
Partnerships are generally formed to secure access to resources, share financial risk and costs, increase opportunities to learn and adopt new skills, gain input from more or different members of the community, and enhance the ability to respond rapidly to the changing needs of the community. (Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, 2012).
Before forming a partnership, it is important for potential partners to have missions and values that are compatible, even aligned. Potential partners should also explore the following areas together to ensure they are not only in sync, but also ready, willing, and able to effectively manage the partnership.
- What are the needs of the community?
- What aspects of joint programming, special events, or activities will be a part of the partnership?
- Will cooperative research be done to formulate an overall framework for the partnership? Who will be responsible for collecting and analyzing the data gained from research? Will the research be conducted and reviewed annually?
- What facilities are needed for the partnership?
- What equipment or supplies are needed?
- If facilities or equipment are involved, who will be responsible for maintenance?
- What human resources are needed to engage and conduct the partnership business? Who will be responsible for evaluations? When will evaluations be conducted?
- What financial resources, such as grants, sponsorships and donations, are available to the partnership?
- Is there any development, ownership, or leasing of property involved with the partnership? Are there any regulations or laws that must be followed related to the management for the property?
- Will the partnership involve any type of business franchising development or operations? Business franchising could include concessions, rental of equipment, or even owning a sports franchise.
- Are there any special permissions or permits necessary to follow in defining or developing the partnership?
- What are the opportunities to market and communicate the positive aspects of the partnership? Does it serve all members of the community? Does it improve the quality of life? Does it provide a healthy and safe environment for all parties involved?
- What are the opportunities for the general public, area councils and other groups to continually have input and stay engaged in the partnership itself? Are there public meetings held on a regular basis to gather suggestions and improvements? Is the progress of the partnership reported to the public?
In the process of forming a partnership, potential partners should consider the following guidelines:
- Begin by building relationships and establishing trust and credibility.
- Acknowledge and honor each partner's agendas and goals.
- Reinforce shared leadership to promote equal responsibility.
- Acknowledge the difference between community input and active involvement. Both are important, but serve very different roles in the success of the partnership.
- Be aware of partnership maturation and that partnerships face different challenges at different stages of development. Meet regularly to discuss and air any issues or concerns as well as successes.
- Plan for member organizations to experience internal transitions that may influence their involvement in the partnership by including more than one member of an organizations in the partnership.
- Encourage upstream thinking and action on broader issues that affect the community to create additional opportunities for measurable success.
- Consider multidisciplinary approaches to provide enriching partnership development.
- Document what has been learned in a manner consistent with the overall approach taken in the partnership, to help future partners execute a model for success.
- Demonstrate accountability to the community.
- Document the deliverables expected from the partnership, along with dates for each deliverable, to create a model of accountability and measurability for the partnership.