After enjoying the many useful workshops at the 2011 Asian Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (AFCSR), I held my own workshop for about 100 participants on Kenan’s experience with the tricky business of partnering.
I started with the comment by Prof. Jim Austin:
The challenges our society faces cannot be met – nor our opportunities fully realized – by any one organization or sector alone. Effective collaboration with other nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses is an imperative.
The workshop participants, in a show of hands, almost all agreed that developing and maintaining effective partnerships was critical for their success. The problem, they complained, was that partnerships took lots of time and energy to maintain and often fell apart.
I outlined the four phases that we at Kenan usually go through in a partnership. These are:
- Phase 1 – Finding a strategic fit – Asking questions such as: How do your missions, objectives and values fit? How do we help each other?
- Phase 2 – Developing an operational fit – Identifying roles, planning together, and agreeing on management details for funding, reporting, accounting and assessment.
- Phase 3 – Managing the partnership – documenting agreements, connecting at the right levels, building trust and communicating consistently and effectively
- Phase 4 – Appraising the partnership according to results achieve, problem resolution and changes that may have taken place since the start-up. This phase leads to decisions on whether to renew, rework or exit the partnership.
I illustrated these four phases with details from a variety Kenan’s partnership projects, both successful and unsuccessful and concluded with the “Seven Cs of Collaboration”:
- Congruency of missions, strategies and values of both
- Clarity of purpose
- Connection between purpose and people
- Creation of value – for both partners
- Consistent communication
- Continual learning – about each other, about project
- Commitment – to the project and the partnership
Other participants spoke up about their own experiences with partnership. There was particular interest in the difficulties of public-private partnerships. This discussion was enlivened with questions about what to do if government officials wanted kick-backs. Speaking up from the government side was the mayor of a large town in the Philippines who rejected the idea that partnering with government usually created ethical issues. Some of the corporate and NGO leaders present agreed to disagree.