Partnerships: An evolution

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By Jane Thurlow

All good models for relationships evolve over time. Think 21st century marriages – more flexible, more diverse, more in tune with the needs of both parties. Partnerships are evolving too: to be more strategic, more targeted, more valuable for both partners. The traditional philanthropic model is being replaced by embedded partnerships, focused on shared value. Beyond that, we’re now seeing businesses looking to partners to develop their business agenda alongside them.

A partnership continuum can be a helpful way to look at this evolution. Businesses will be at different stages, depending on their journey. The positions aren’t mutually exclusive. Some businesses will be in the philanthropic space, but will look to optimise strategic partnerships with long-term partners:

PHILANTHROPIC PARTNERSHIPS: Support external messaging and internal engagement with employees. Traditionally about being seen to be good, short term and small scale; think charity of the year …

RESPONSIBILITY PARTNERSHIPS: A step on from philanthropy, these showcase the impact a brand can have. Successful partnerships are relevant to CSR strategy, focused on the cause rather than the business. The benefit? Reputation and brand building. The fit needs to be relevant and feel authentic

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS: Partnerships are integrated, delivering targeted and specific value for the sustainability agenda from signature programs to a scaleable approach, e.g. Barclays, Plan and Care Banking for Change

BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS: Increasingly businesses are looking for partners who can help them achieve a specific goal, be propositional and solve problems: plugging skills and knowledge gaps to develop new business models and markets; with a focus on social and business impact

Think about where your partnerships are now and where you would like them to be in the future. Think about where your partners are and how you can help them move their models along the continuum. How can you help partners with their business objectives? What shared assets, resources and knowledge do you have that you can leverage together?

Happy mapping ….

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Jane has over 20 years experience working in research, strategy, innovation and marketing in the commercial and charity sectors. She enjoys informing thinking and decision making, highlighting the strategic choices that an organisation needs to make.