The delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 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.
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 organisations ﬁnd themselves involved in a whole plethora of arrangements, all called ‘partnership’, 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. And finally, they must be underpinned by a pro-partnering culture that is outward-looking and by nature seeks to collaborate wherever value can be created.
With all these elements in place, an organisation can become institutionally Fit for Partnering.
Typical Fit for Partnering Process
While TPI supports organisations with a range of ad hoc strategy, process and capacity development support, a complete, holistic 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.
Examples of our work
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.
TPI worked with Counterpart International to think through its approach to working with business. TPI developed Counterpart’s corporate engagement policy, along with a complete partner selection and due diligence procedure to allow it to be conﬁdent and systematic in its partnering approach.
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.
Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO)
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.
In addition to helping to convene the Forum, TPI worked within PAHO to build understanding of the potential of partnerships with the private sector and conducted a capacity building programme in Latin America to build the skills of PAHO staff to partner more effectively.
Better Cotton Initiative
TPI developed a set of partnering tools and guides for the Better Cotton Initiative, helping them to standardize their approach across the multiple collaborations they are engaged in.
SOS Children’s Villages
TPI supported SOS Children’s Villages in developing better understanding of corporate partnerships and to build their partnering capacity in Europe, Africa and South East Asia to develop and manage mutually beneficial partnerships with the corporate sector. This work included the analysis of current trends in business-NGO partnerships in the Netherlands and India. To further embed the partnering approach, SOS Children’s Villages incorporated partnering skills training modules in their FDC Academy (2010-2011).
TPI supported UNDP in creating policy guidelines covering an over-arching UNDP partnership definition, principles of good practice, instruments, processes and review procedures to help UNDP partner more systematically and more effectively with others, including the private sector (2008).
Also see our examples of tailored training programmes, designed to build an organisation’s capacity, skills and knowledge to partner effectively.
Fit for Partnering Survey
In order to help organisations identify areas to develop to strengthen their institutional partnering capability, TPI is now launching the Fit for Partnering Framework 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 survey 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 would like to do an online self-assessment of the degree to which your organisation is Fit for Partnering, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org