The delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate action requires an unparalleled level of collaborative action between business, government, DFIs, the UN, NGOs and civil society. The types of innovative, systemic and transformational collaboration required go well beyond the typical transactional and contract-based approach organisations are most familiar with. Scaling up partnering will require organisations from all sectors to have the institutional competency and readiness to be able to effectively deliver these new forms of collaboration.
Fit for Partnering
Is your organisation institutionally Fit for Partnering?
As the demands for collaboration grow, most large organisations are ﬁnding they are not set up and operating optimally to be able to deliver on the rhetoric. Too many ﬁnd themselves involved in a plethora of ‘partnership’ arrangements, some delivering strategic value, many not, some stagnating or completely forgotten since an MoU was signed with much fanfare. Staff are ﬁnding it challenging to navigate their internal procedures to set up collaborations in the ﬁrst place, or ﬁnding that partnerships are taking too much of their time and effort without producing sufﬁcient results to justify their investment.
For organisations to maximise the benefits of collaboration, they need to ensure they understand how and why partnerships can deliver value for their organisation and have a clear strategy to inform and prioritise engagement, along with the right leadership commitment to implement it. They must have sound systems and procedures to be able to take partnerships through their lifecycle from initial identification through prospective value assessment, due diligence and sign-off, implementation, monitoring, reviewing and learning, along with supportive instruments – both legal and HR. Organisations must have skilled staff with the right mindset, relationship and trust-building skills and technical partnering knowledge. They must be underpinned by a pro-partnering culture that is outward-looking and by nature seeks to collaborate wherever value can be created. And finally, organisations need to be well connected to its key stakeholders.
Typical Fit for Partnering Process
A Fit for Partnering process typically includes:
- Undertake an extensive survey and a series of interviews (internal and external) and roundtables; analysis of documentation, strategy, systems and procedures.
- Produce a Fit for Partnering report analysing the degree to which the organisation is set up for collaboration, including high-level recommendations for how to build institutional capacity
- Through iterative discussions and roundtables, prioritise the areas for action and develop a strategy and detailed plans for building institutional capability. Engage the relevant areas of the organisation to ensure sufﬁciently wide buy-in.
- Collectively implement plan of action over a period of time.
- Typically this may include: developing a partnering strategy incl. a typology and strategic imperatives, principles, UVP etc.; development of supportive systems and processes, internal guidelines and tools; pro-partnering legal agreements; training and coaching and nurturing of conducive culture.
TPI has worked extensively with World Vision to help them build their institutional capacity to partner within their national offices. As a pioneer in this area, World Vision and TPI published their experiences to date in the report: Partner of Choice: World Vision’s journey to becoming institutionally Fit for Partnering
With Unicef wishing to transform from pure fundraising to more strategic collaboration with business, TPI undertook a full assessment of the potential opportunity and of Unicef’s Fitness for Partnering. TPI’s report was the basis for Unicef’s private sector engagement strategy, and its recommendations for structuring and building capacity were accepted and implemented. Over many years TPI has continued to work with Unicef on staff capacity building, developing processes, and currently around creating tools for assessing the value of their collaborations.
United Nations Rome-based agencies
TPI has worked for many years with the food and agriculture-focussed Rome-based UN agencies, supporting them as they undertake the organisational change required for them to partner with excellence. Support has included developing corporate partnership strategies, undertaking Fit for Partnering analyses, system and process development, creation of tools and guidelines and capacity building programmes.
Through a mixture of original research, interviews and workshops, TPI developed a strategic framework and guidelines for PAHO to collaborate with a range of partners, most notably the private sector. This included the creation of PAHO’s flagship ‘Partners Forum for Action Against Chronic Disease’, a multi-stakeholder platform which brings together companies, government agencies, PAHO and NGOs to inspire, facilitate and support action against chronic disease.
World Vision International’s journey to become Partner of Choice
In 2018, World Vision set out on an ambitious journey to invest in building its internal capacity in order to become ‘fit for partnering’ – i.e. having in place the right leadership and strategy, systems and processes, staff competencies and a culture that together allow it to maximise its partnering impact. The video below illustrates their journey in becoming Partner of Choice.
Fit for Partnering Webinar
For further discussion of the Fit for Partnering process from the perspective of organisations who have walked the walk, watch our Fit for Partnering webinar in which our colleagues from World Vision, Care International and the World Food Programme shared their experiences building their organisations’ institutional capability to partner effectively and become ‘partner of choice’.