The starting point or imperative to partner may come from a number of places.
- failed attempts to solve a problem or meet a need using conventional approaches, or a feeling of collective frustration with the status quo, leading to the determination to do things differently
- the vision of an influential individual who can see an opportunity, and knows they can’t achieve it alone
- a national plan with political backing which cannot be delivered through traditional government approaches
- exchanges between individuals in informal settings (e.g. CEOs meeting at Davos), or in more intentional settings such as innovation labs or platforms for partnership
- organisations which have previously been working in partnership, looking to do something new or different.
Partnerships in general tend to work best when starting with the need / problem / opportunity and with partners gathered around that issue based on the key resources and insights they might bring to it. What is usually less promising as the basis for a partnership is when an organisation is acting in a self-focused way, for example, looking to cover organisational costs or to improve its reputation after previous poor performance. Generally speaking, solid and valuegenerating partnerships are more likely when all partners come to the table with an attitude more focused on giving rather than taking – i.e. thinking “what can I bring” to a partnership and “what can we do together” rather than the first thought being “what can I get out of it”.
The diagram shows the lifecycle of a ‘typical’ partnership (we use quote marks because all partnerships are unique).
The partnership stages
Stage 1: Scoping and Building
This typically involves mapping the landscape of relevant stakeholders and initiatives, engaging key stakeholders to together build a full understanding of the issue (including of the system for system transformational partnerships), identifying those stakeholders likely to be partners, and then undertaking the process of engagement and negotiation to collectively
develop a value-creating partnership, set out below in the ‘Partnership Formation Journey’
Stages 2: Managing and Maintaining and 3: Reviewing and Revising
This represent the implementation phase of the partnership. At the beginning of stage 2, partners establish the governance, operational and management structures, allocate human resources and financial resources (or mobilize resources from an external source) and start to deliver together. A well-maintained partnership includes a culture and constant process of review and iteration (stage 3) – monitoring progress towards goals, reviewing the health of the partnership, and making the changes necessary to keep a partnership on track, including continuing to strengthen the Building Blocks
Stage 4: Moving On
Depending upon how the experience of the partnership, the partnership might decide to close (either because it has completed its tasks or is not delivering sufficient value), continue on, institutionalize its activities into one of the partners or a new organisation, scale up its activities, redirect its efforts, or reimagine itself with a change of partners