TPI has been supporting individuals and organisations in their partnering for over a decade. In our conversations with practitioners, a number of common challenges continually surface, irrespective of the individual context, sector, organisation and geography. It is quickly apparent that almost all of these are directly linked to the organisation’s internal capacity or processes rather than purely external factors.
In fact our work with organisations across sectors has repeatedly demonstrated that one of the main obstacles to effective partnership lies in the fact that organisations are not institutionally set up to effectively engage in collaborations with other organisations, let alone maximise the value of their partnerships.
Some of the common challenges we see include:
Partnerships are not well aligned with overall organisational strategy
- The term “partnership” is often used very widely within organisations, so that it is nearly meaningless, and it is difficult to set up consistent partnering processes
- Partnerships are designed and managed in an ad-hoc way and are not aligned with strategic objectives. This results in the organisation having too many partnerships to support and very limited resources to do so.
Organisational processes do not favour collaborative working
- Opportunities are lost because the processes for approval of potential partnerships are lengthy and complex and contracts are not fit for purpose.
- Partnerships are not institutionalised and depend too much on the individuals driving them. When the individual moves on, the partnership slows down or collapses.
- Monitoring and evaluation of the partnership is rarely put in place and even then focuses solely on impact and not on how well the partnership is operating.
Resource allocation is problematic
- The additional time and human resources required to work in partnership sometimes outweigh the benefits.
- It’s difficult to justify the allocation of additional human and financial resources to allocate to partnerships; or the need for partnership training or support.
Culture, skills and collaborative mind-set are not in place
- Organisations and potential partners come to the table without having a clear idea of what they can offer or what they would like to achieve.
- A competitive rather than cooperative mindset is encouraged and rewarded in organisations and society at large.
- Letting go of unilateral control is challenging for individuals but also organisations.
- Humility, a key quality for effective partnering is not encouraged and rewarded in organisations and society at large.
- Collaborating in a competitive environment can be messy and confusing.
- Many publicly funded organisations tend to be risk-averse, which is often found to stifle innovation.
The mix of issues encountered in a partnership is always particular to that collaboration, and the solutions to overcome them will depend on the specific context. But, while such problems will need to be addressed collaboratively by all partners, many of the issues listed above can be prevented by addressing internal issues around capacity, culture, and mindset.
Achieving efficient, effective and impactful partnerships is challenging and requires the right leadership, systems, processes, people and organisational culture. Recognising the strengths and weaknesses of one’s organisation is the first step to making sure all of these can be in place.
In order to help organisations identify areas to develop to strengthen their institutional partnering capability, TPI has developed a framework for assessment and analysis, the Fit for Partnering Framework, now being launched in survey form. This is a light-touch service offered to help organisations assess their preparedness to partnering and the actions they might need to take to move towards partnering with excellence.
The Fit for Partnering service is in three parts:
- An initial conversation to discuss your organisation’s needs, and to establish a relevant sample size and spread, as well as a timeline for the survey,
- The survey itself, which is taken online separately by participating individuals, at their convenience,
- The assessment of the results from the survey.
We will send you a qualitative analysis of your organisations’ current leadership, processes, skills and culture, with recommendations for key areas to strengthen, build up, explore or discuss within your organisation. The evaluation process provides a guide to begin asking the right questions and framing strategic discussions around partnering in the most constructive way for your organisation. The analysis, incorporating our own expertise and experience, will identify specific actions and immediate priorities to build your institutional capacity to partner effectively.
If you are interested in learning more about the Fit for Partnering framework and taking our institutional assessment survey, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org