Step 3: Jumpstart Lazy Thinking
By following Steps 1 and 2, you will leave a lasting impression of genuineness and approachability, if nothing else. Once your olive branch of collaboration is reciprocated, now is the time to encourage your prospective partner agency to answer the same questions in Step 1. If they can also answer Yes, you’re golden! Now you can deep dive during your research and reflection sessions, into brainstorming potential partnership initiatives. When caught up in non- profit crisis mode, it is easy to fall into a reactive or passive position of decision- making, as opposed to a proactive position. High quality industry research can help jumpstart the idea wheels. For example, the Contra Costa County Workforce Development Board conducted an extensive research initiative in 2015, to ascertain client needs, service availability and opportunities for growth within the county. The findings determined that while there were a host of service providers that supply job training services for a wide variety of client populations, there were few providers that served as eligibility and assessment conduits into the system. The research also identified a lack of service provisions dedicated to the successful job placements of trained individuals. Essentially, the front end and the back end of the service provision continuum offered ample opportunity for increased capacity building, collaboration and service innovation.
Tapping into the wealth of information available in similar research findings can provide a host of viable ideas, by specifically highlighting potential areas for development within the service provision structure. These opportunities and recommendations represent potential collaborative endeavors, new service methods and favorable funding options for your agency.
Step 4: Be Open to Abundance
Now that you’ve spent some time researching potential collaborative partnerships within your community, and have identified a few initiatives that the partnership can explore, now is the time to practice openness and flexibility. As you embark on this collaborative relationship, it is imperative that each party participate in the following:
1) Develop a JOINT vision and mission, in relationship to 1-2 potential partnership initiatives.
2) Develop 2-3 objectives, detailing how this joint vision will be achieved. Make sure the objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (S.M.A.R.T.).
3) Explore the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the joint partnership.
4) Identify resources needed to achieve each objective, both within each partnering agency, and outside of the joint partnership.
5) Determine the criteria for success, and choose a deadline for the evaluation of achievement towards each objective, and the JOINT vision and mission.
Setting forth these relational guidelines at the beginning of the partnership is essential to the successful achievement of joint venture visions.
Impactful collaborations don’t just happen by chance, or because we think it’s a good idea. Strategic collaborative partnerships require preparation, planning and dedication toward the achievement of a joint goal. Timing is key. Take the time to first identify if you and your organization are ready, and be sure to identify if your potential partner agency is ready as well. Take the time to find the most strategic alliances. Progress on Steps 1 and 2 may take longer than you’d expect, but this process also helps to serve as an indicator of which organizations have the physical and emotional capacity to engage in a successful, collaborative partnership at this time.
If you're considering partnering with another agency to expand your impact, we would be more than happy to support!