The Partnering Cycle
Partnerships are complicated. For them to be successful, they need to be developed and managed systematically. The Partnering Cycle below summarises our understanding of the different stages in the life of a partnership. It is, obviously, a schematic: partnerships are evolutionary in nature and no one partnership conforms precisely to this sequence, but many have found it invaluable as a framework for their partnering work.
The Partnering Initiative has experience of supporting partnerships at every stage of this cycle and also works extensively with established partnerships help introduce important early-stage activities that may have been missed that will strengthen the partnership and give it stronger management structures, together with renewed focus and vigour.
Throughout TPI’s experience of working with partnerships, we have seen three inhibitors to partnership, the antithesis of which lead to three core principle that are fundamental to effective partnership working – no matter where in the world, at what level or scale and / or with what partners they operate. These are:
Equity: What does ‘equity’ mean in a relationship where there are wide divergences in power, resources and influence? Equity is not the same as ‘equality’. Equity implies an equal right to be at the table and a validation of those contributions that are not measurable simply in terms of cash value or public profile.
Transparency: Openness and honesty in working relationships are pre-conditions of trust – an important ingredient of most successful partnership. Only with transparent working will a partnership be truly accountable to its partners, donors and other stakeholders.
Mutual benefit: If all partners are expected to contribute to the partnership they should also be entitled to benefit from the partnership. A healthy partnership will work towards achieving specific benefits for each partner over and above the common benefits to all partners. Only in this way will the partnership ensure the continuing commitment of partners and therefore be sustainable.
These principles should be worked out as part of the partnership-building process and agreed by all partners. If they provide the foundation upon which the partnership is built, then as things progress they continue to provide the ‘cement’ that holds the partnership together over time.