Just like Goldilocks searching for the just right porridge, chair or bed; partnerships need to be just right.
Some partnerships require little trust, some a little more, and others a lot.
Some partnerships need a little time, others a little more, and others even more.
Some partnerships only share information and others share everything.
Some partnership have a very loose structure while others are highly formalized.
Just like Goldilocks your organization needs to find what is just right for you. Unlike Goldilocks if both partners agree on what is just right for them there is no need to run, you want to stay around.
The right partnership depends on:
- Reason for forming the partnership
- Trust between the partners
- Time available to invest in the partnership
- Willingness to share turf
- Structure for the groups’ interaction
- Decision-making process
- Ability to share resources
- Benefits to each organization
Partnerships move along a continuum from informal networking to collaboration, where partners share their resources to accomplish a mutual goal. Your position on the continuum depends on what you want to accomplish. As the partners increase their trust in each others competencies they tend to move towards integrating decision-making authority. (See table)
The partnership between a community group, such as Friends, and a government agencies comes with challenges. The organizations often have divergent needs and cultures. However, that is why the partnership is so beneficial. Friends are part of the community and have the potential to access resources not readily available to government agencies. The Service brings their competency and passion for wildlife management. Together they enhance each others capacity to achieve their mission and joint vision.
Creating and maintaining a successful partnership takes planning. The trust, time and effort each organization contributes moves the partnership towards collaboration. It is not practical for every partnership to aim for collaboration, what is necessary is finding that sweet spot were both partners know whatever form of partnership they have is just right for them.
The following table provides guidance on the different forms of partnerships, their purpose, necessary trust levels, time commitment, and resource sharing. It outlines the structure of the partnership, joint decision-making and benefits. This research helps you determine where your organization is on the partnership continuum and what is needed to get to that “just right” spot for you and your partner.
Adapted from Collaboration (Lessons Learned Series). AASL, Fall, 1996.
Bernard Bull, The Difference Between Networking, Coordinating, Cooperating, and Collaborating
Thomas Kayser, True Collaboration Is a Partnership: Six Ingredients for Making it So
Joan Patterson currently serves on the board of Friends of the Duck Stamp/Migratory Bird and was the former Director of Grassroots Outreach of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and board member for the Friends of Tualatin River NWR and the Friends of Potomac River Refuges.
Public Lands Alliance, Best Practices Establishing a Partnership Model for America’s Public Lands
Stephen M. R. Covey, The Speed of Trust