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Shifting the Funder’s Partnership Paradigm

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. How can donors shift their support to help partnerships achieve ambitious and transformational goals?

Donor’s Central Role
Donors have a central and critical role in “making or breaking” partnerships.   But few have been involved in genuine partnerships. As a result, they underestimate partnership power dynamics; trust issues; partner disengagement; and the fear of failure. Effective partnerships between stakeholders with different missions, interests, cultures and even vocabularies can be difficult to achieve. It requires empathy; collective leadership; a collaborative mindset and a number of partnering skills, tools and processes.

If investor shift their mindsets and focus on supporting partnering they can advance effective partnering and the opportunities that it can bring to everyone. Here are five key roles donors can play to drive innovative and transformational partnerships:

1. Promote partnering and the long view
Donors can use partnering as a delivery mechanism and a way to add value. They must not force partnerships– “we’ll give you the money if you find a partner.”  Partners must come together based on a shared commitment to their partner and to achieve complimentary and individual objectives.  There must be alignment and a true commitment in effective partnering.Donors must also promote and support the need for the long view.  Patience and commitment are required because true partnerships take time. Recently, I supported a review of JUMP completing five years in a partnership to advance early Math literacy- Math Minds.  The partners realized that their first year had in fact being about “getting to know each other”.  If the funders had been pushing for immediate results, a second year of funding might not have been likely.

2. Convene partners for action and learning

Investors have broad community and funder networks. They can build partnering action by bringing together their networks to facilitate conversations and networking– including the usual and the unusual suspects.  They can also use their networks to facilitate the sharing of their knowledge about the partnering process.  Building out case studies and support presentations will permit learning from one another.


3. Catalyze partnerships through brokering and funding
As an extension of convening, funders can help to broker new partnerships.  They can help partners as “brokers”, coaches and mentors. Funding partnership-generated projects is also a key role in building partnerships.

4. Build capacity for partnering and evaluating partnerships
Effective partnering takes new skills and requires a different form of leadership.  This will require an investment in developing partnering capacity and supporting partnering processes such as meetings, training, and other elements of partnering that are not required when an organization works on its own.    

The most effective training often comes from evaluating a partnership, its learnings and the value add. Funders need to support evaluations that look at what works, how and why partnering adds value and supports innovation and transformation.  This will be critical to building up evidence of the fundamental role partnering can play.

5. Engage as “true” partners and model high standards in partnering practice
Investors can play a key role by engaging as genuine partners and modelling high standards in the partnering process.  This includes building a genuine curiosity and openness for all voices (even those without perceived power) to be heard. Encouraging individual and mutual interests to be explored and validated and ensuring equity and respect are built, where little may have existed before.  Above all, seeding courage to make a difference on issues that are important to those involved.

Workshop for Funders on Effective Partnering
These are exciting times to be doing things between funders and the community differently– with determination, persistence and courage funders can be drivers and catalysts for robust, effective partnerships.

The Partnership Brokers Association is a non-profit, social business that is dedicated to understanding and improving the partnering process to ensure that every partnership optimizes its potential and reaches its goal.  We work with all sectors: business, governments, international agencies, academia and civil society and have a good track record for being nimble and responsive in the way we work.

It is our view that donors have a central and critical part to play in ‘making or breaking’ the partnership paradigm and that an opportunity to explore this as a sector could be of real value – both to donors and to the partnerships they support.  From our work over many years with a number of donors in many parts of the world, we believe that many would value the opportunity to come together to explore these challenges with their peers.

To this end, and in response to expressed interest, we have created a one-day workshop that we are offering globally.  In fact, the first workshop was held in Canada with funders from the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers Network. For more information about hosting a one-day workshop for funders please contact me, an authorized trainer and associate at: partnershiptraining@jsdaw.com

Five Reasons to Sign Up For Partnership Brokering

Partnership-DefinitionBy Jocelyne Daw

If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together” –African Proverb 

It can be said that partnering creates a whole that is significantly greater than the sum of the individual parts, and in the process builds greater value than any one partner could achieve on their own. But what does it take to make a partnership successful? What makes some partnership successful and others not? And why is partnership broker training critical to the success of any partnership?

So what does it take?

Building partnerships is all about people. Successful partnerships are based on mutual respect and trust, open and honest communications, and require attentiveness, listening, and intuition. Partners must nurture their relationships and understand and support their partner’s needs and challenges equally as their own. But most people don’t have the training and knowledge to enable partnership success.

What could partnership training do for you and your organization?

1. It will provide “training and resources” for those engaged in the critical partnering process
Effective collaboration is not just a principle but also a process; success requires a skill and knowledge in terms of partnering processes. The Partnership Brokers course will help build insight and expertise in managing the partnering process from the earliest ‘scoping’ stage to the final ‘moving on’ phase, including the delivery of measurable benefits to all parties.

2. It will give you the ability to ask right questions
Is partnering the right approach? Is the timing right?Upon deciding to undertake a new partnership, intuition and foresight are required to discern when the circumstances and context are right—and to say no when they are not! Partnering is about allocating individual talent in order to maximize collective potential. In the early stages of Apple, Steve jobs handled marketing while his partner, Steve Wozniak, dealt with the technical processes, showing how, when facilitated correctly, partnerships bring out the best qualities in each of its members.

3. It will introduce you to boundary spanning skills
Leaders committed to partnership must have the ability to boundary span, to challenge assumptions and mindsets and to be open to new ways of conducting business. After all, building partnerships is not business as usual; it demands leaders who are willing to move outside their own comfort zone for the benefit of a bigger purpose. This challenge placed upon leaders to move towards a genuinely more collaborative model is a BIG one, and especially important within the Partnership Brokers curriculum.

4. It will embolden you with the courage to learn and the ability to be reflective
True partnerships are made up of creative risk takers. The course encourages participants to be reflective and embrace vulnerability at all costs. At their core, partnerships are relationships, and relationships are dynamic and ever changing by virtue of their deeply human makeup. Therefore, authentic and vulnerable partners have the greatest chance at becoming powerhouse partnerships (thank you Brené Brown!).

5. It will help you build a local and global network of fellow partnership brokers
This is far more than a training course, it is a vehicle for building a local and global community of practitioners that are already playing a significant part in improving and scaling multi-stakeholder partnerships and non-traditional collaboration worldwide. It will provide links to regional/national networks of partnership brokers and gives access to further resources and professional development.

Now for the logistics:

The Partnership Broker Training course is offered by the Partnership Brokers Association in collaboration with JS Daw & Associates. It is being held this February 5 – 8, 2018 in Toronto.  For details and to apply click here.

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.

The heart of the Association’s work is the foundation course – a 4-day intensive face-to-face training designed to: deepen understanding of the changing nature of the partnership brokering role during a typical partnering cycle; share tools, tips and techniques for effective brokering and build key partnership brokering skills.

The time is now. Cross-sector collaboration as a ‘seed’ for renewing the world.

This is a guest blog from a good friend and a fellow Partnership Broker, Michelle Halse from Living 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. Read more…

Diversity in Partnerships Is Uncomfortable – And That’s Good!

By Jocelyne Daw

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. This diversity drives innovation and is critical to better serve the community. So, how do you make sure your partnerships embrace diversity?  Read more…

Four Steps to Building a Strong Partnership Culture

By Jocelyne Daw

“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? Read more…

10 Real Signs of Partnership

Jocelyne Daw with Yeshe Smith

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. Here are ten signs you’re in a true partnership NOT just another traditional relationship.
Read more…

An Update on Shared Value Around the World

So far, 2017 has been a year of stability and scaling for shared value. Shared value was introduced over six years ago as an innovative new approach  addressing social needs with a business model to achieve social and economic value.  While some of the initial excitement has faded, many companies have found success with this strategy and are reaping the benefits of more effective community-business relationships while creating new economic value. Read more…

Social Purpose Marketing for Behaviour Change

By Rachel Adrian

Recent years have seen a huge increase in companies getting involved in social purpose marketing. Rather than solely throwing money at a cause, companies are taking a stand and educating the public about underlying social issues. Advocacy and educational campaigns add authenticity and a personal connection to community investment initiatives. Social purpose marketing isn’t just about doing good for the community, it has also been shown to have unique business benefits. Read more…

The Future of Cause Marketing

Cause marketing has changed rapidly in recent years and these changes have the potential to impact their contribution to the nonprofit sector. With the rise of online shopping, and many retailers closing up physical stores, the popular point-of-sale requests are becoming less viable. Fortunately, even with all of these changes, there are still ways to get customers involved and create a successful campaigns that support organizations both in raising money and awareness.  How? Read more…