Trust is a core, foundational principle in partnership work. It’s truly a place where partnership will soar or get stuck if trust is not strong. Trust doesn’t just happen. It has to be earned and maintained and when done well, trust can be more valuable than gold.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” - F. Scott Fitzgerald.We all tend to see the difficulties we encounter at work and in life in general as problems we must solve. We come by this tendency honestly through formal education and through learned experience where we told to look for “the answer” to our problems.
This past spring I participated in a conference on “Inherent Tensions in Networks”. The main theme was get comfortable with being uncomfortable when working in partnerships. When I work with partners I use a diversity of concepts and methods to support and enhance their work, including design and systems thinking and group dynamics. But “Polarity Thinking”, is one framework I use regularly. Like yin and yang, polarities are interdependent values that support each other.
Guest Blog - Rebecca Aird, Director Grants and Community Knowledge, Ottawa Community FoundationIn February this year, I participated in a 4-day training course by the Partnership Brokers Association. Participants included reps from post-secondary institutions, government agencies, funders, and not-forprofit organizations.
By Jocelyne DawEveryone talks about partnership. But talking about collaboration isn’t the same as doing it. Genuine collaboration is hard, especially when it requires working across sectors and systems. Ineffective partnerships can be wasteful and challenge traditional power dynamics. It can be regarded more as a charming concept than as a legitimate practice to improve outcomes. Partnering isn’t the clear answer to every problem.
Donors increasingly play a critical role in funding cross-sector collaborations. In fact, many require “partnerships” for funding to be provided. They rightly belief partnerships can be innovative, far reaching, scalable and sustainable. But donors often struggle to appreciate the challenges and hard work involved in true partnerships. And while their intentions are genuine, practice suggests funder driven partnerships have often stifled rather than optimized multi-stakeholder collaborations.
“Partnering and collaboration are critical… if we are to create a more inclusive and sustainable world.”It is not a not a lone voice making this claim.I’d even venture to say the idea – that cross-sector collaboration is required to address the challenges facing the world – is just about mainstream.Which is not to say we’ve all worked out how to do it.Otto Scharmer, author of ‘Theory U’ and Co-Founder of U.lab writes regularly in the Huffington Post.
In the coming years the community landscape will look dramatically different. Growing demands on resources and increasingly complexity of issues will require bridging traditional and untraditional boundaries to create powerful partnerships for social change. As a result, diversity will be inevitable. As different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives get blended, cognitive diversity will increase. Cognitive diversity is defined as the differences in our thought and problem-solving processes.
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is management guru, Peter Drucker’s most famous quote. Nowhere is this truer than in partnerships. Partners work across organizations and sectors and must adapt to diverse approaches and styles. More often than not, focus is put on building project strategies but not on HOW the project goals will be achieved – through a culture and mindset of collaboration. The soft stuff is always the hard stuff. So how do you create a partnership culture to drive success?
Since I started my consulting firm over seven years ago, partnership – brokering, coaching, training and advocating for them, has been a central part of my practice. But sadly, partnership has become a blanket phase to describe many “business as usual” organizational relationships. It is beginning to lose its true meaning. This is especially disillusioning when the term ‘partnership’ is used as a soother, a calmative, to disguise the real challenge and struggle of collaborating meaningfully.