Reflections from the Partnership Brokers Community of Practice

By Jocelyne Daw



At the end of June I attended the global Partnership Brokers Association’s weeklong Community of Practice. Almost 20 Partnership Broker practitioner trainers from around the world gathered to study and reflect on how to strengthen the partnership process through the emerging profession of Partnership Brokers. The Community of Practice meeting involves sharing new ideas, evolving the training material and learning from thought-provoking discussion. Here are three highlights from the week:

1. Collective Impact and Partnership Brokering

One topic of discussion was the emerging approach of Collective Impact. Collective Impact advocates for “bringing people together in a structured way to drive social change.” Since it’s launch in 2011 it has gleaned global attention, as organizations from across sector understand the value of working together to address complex social issues and build sustainable, inclusive communities.At the Community of Practice we discussed, “Is Partnership Brokering a competitor to Collective Impact or a synergistic process to support the successful implementation of Collective Impact Initiatives?”We all agreed there were strong synergies and interconnectedness between the two. Collective Impact provides the “why” – why working together is vital to the future of sustainable communities. It provides the “what”, the framework of five conditions necessary to drive collective impact. Partnership Brokering moves the concept to the next step and provides the “how”.partnership brokeris an active ‘go-between’ who supports partners in navigating their collaboration journey. Partnership brokers focus on building and strengthening a partnership throughout its life cycle, to ensure it delivers highly impactful programmes of work as well as significant wider value to those involved and wider society. Partnership brokers both ‘serve’ and ‘lead’ as the situation requires and as needs of the partnership change over time. Skilled brokering can make all the difference to the effectiveness of complex networks and partnerships. 



2. Partnership Brokering is an emergent and growing profession

Partnerships and collective action can be highly challenging to those involved and often fall short of expectations. As Peter Senge says:

“The imperative to collaborate across boundaries...has been established. Now we just need to learn how to get better at it - quickly.”

Partnership Brokering is a new and emerging profession. Brokers can be internal to an organization or external to the partnership. Partnership Brokers guide the development of effective partnerships.  They act as change makers and are dedicated to connecting ideas and people in order to help clarify the goals and improve the operations of a partnership.  Because it is a new field of practice emerging lessons and approaches are enabling more breakthrough and transformational collaboration.3. Advancing the Training MaterialAdvancing and deepening the Partnership Brokers Training material is at the heart of the Community of Practice work. New ideas, experience and learnings from participants are integrated to strengthen partnership results and provide tools and frameworks for success. Two breakthrough additions:

  • Partnership Broker Principles Evolution: Two new principles were added to the existing three.

    • “Embracing Diversity”because it leads to new value. Many partnerships have anxiety over working with different organizations, sectors or people. Yet is it that diversity that brings new thinking, new ideas and innovation that creates new value and deepen results.

    • “Having Courage” because it leads to breakthrough results. Partnerships are hard work and there is a lot of uncertainty when undertaking a partnership. It takes courage to move forward and address the unknown that comes with working collaboratively and yet partnerships can lead to transformational results.

  • Complexity Theory Integration: Complexity theory has been integrated into the training and applied to partnering approaches to allow for more innovation and transformative collaboration.

 The Partnership Brokers Association is at the forefront of developing the profession of partnership brokering by setting standards, building capacity and promoting professionalism for those operating in this role. It was a privilege to be part of the sessions and to contribute to the growing professional body of professional knowledge and training.

Here’s how you can get involved in Partnership Brokering:

  • Partnership Broker Training, Calgary, Fall 2016: For more details and to apply click here.

  • Partnership Broker Alumni Meeting, Calgary Fall 2016: PBA maintains a strong commitment to our training graduates and this fall JS Daw & Associates in collaboration with Partnership Brokers Association will be hosting an one-day refresher course that shares with alumni the latest brokering material. Alumni of the course can contact us for more information.