Partnership is essential to achieving the SDGs yet an intention – reality gap exists. Organisations, whether NGO, Company or institution, have this as a stated priority. Professional partnership teams are working hard to hold together relationships, but it takes a whole organisation to deliver transformative partnerships. There’s a troublesome investment deficit in partnerships. Partnership management is often approached intuitively and can succeed or fail based on the abilities of individuals involved with little training or support. Partnerships are getting by, but we need clear consistent leadership on partnership, investment in skills and mindsets shifts and the right kind of culture and enabling environment for partnership working across all actors.
BUILD STRONG LEADERSHIP
Leadership is needed to set ambitions for large scale transformational partnerships, not just for funding, but for change, as well as expecting every part of an organisation to develop its capacity to deliver in partnership. It is a challenge to build the capacities, systems and approaches to deliver in partnership but one that leadership need to invest in.
INVEST IN SKILLS & MINDSETS
We expect people to partner productively whether from business, NGO or institution, global or local, small or large organisation. However, the paradigms people operate can cloud their perspectives and behaviours. Missed communication is commonplace. Mismatched expectations are damaging. Collaboration is constrained. We need an investment in partnership skills and to nurture new mindsets in our partnership leaders and wider teams. People need support to understand each other, develop shared value and deal with difference. Only then can we engender trust and build resilient relationships and successful collaborations.
DEVELOP AN ENABLING ENVIRONMENT FOR PARTNERSHIP
Culture and style of an organisation are critical determinants of the enabling environment for partnership. Leaders need to signal the changes and model behaviours that support the new mindset. Using news tools and systems, resources and rewards can encourage and stimulate people’s interest in doing things differentlyii. This takes strong and consistent leadership, focusing on transformational change, while being open on the means to achieve it, sharing success, mistakes and learning along the way.
It is time that organisations recognise the investment deficit in partnerships. Let’s begin to invest in the leadership, skills, mindsets and culture to deliver transformative partnerships.
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By Rachael Clay
[ii] Gardner, H. (2004). Changing minds: The art and science of changing our own and other people’s minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.