At DIXON Partnering Solutions, we consume partnering news the way some people imbibe coffee - and it's not just a daily proposition. You might say we drink deeply from the worldwide partnering font: news, blogs, scholarly articles, youtube videos, conference papers - you name it and we are across it. (and if you want to get it too we post it all on twitter @dixonpartnering)
Ask any primary school student what one plus one equals and you will get the same answer - two. In partnering though, we like to defy the laws of mathematics, because the point of partnering is that we become more than the sum of our parts. When a partnership is working it is a demonstration of how one plus one can actually equal three. When partnering is really flying? That's where one plus one can equal infinity.
Just last week I was privileged to be a speaker at a Community Sector Leaders Forum in Canberra, ACT, Australia on the topic of sustainable partnering. The theme of the Forum was 'Collaboration - why bother?' Other speakers included Dawn O Neill AM talking on the rise of 'Collective Impact' and Simon Rosenberg and Bernadette Mitcherson presenting an excellent case study on a policy collaboration between the community and government sectors in the ACT.
There is an enormous amount of news, blog articles, research reporting and scholarly articles out in the world, right now, that explores and speaks to the potential of partnering. As part of the ongoing work at DIXON - collecting and sharing this knowledge for our stakeholders and alumni through the twitter feed and online library - I have been struck by how massive the partnering movement is.
With the current economic climate in Australia many small to medium businesses are struggling to survive let alone grow and prosper. These businesses face many challenges, such as: increasing costs; a loss of competitive advantage due to the high Australian dollar; a lack of skilled resources; supply chain procurement driven by large companies and the need to scale to compete in national and global markets.
This blog post arose from a somewhat confused week. In another area of my life (outside of partnering) I had been occasionally helping out at a local nursery and gardens. The organisation prides itself on promoting sustainability and food growing – two of my passions. Because another of my passions is education, I had suggested to the company the possibility of my running a gardening workshop for kids and their parents. I wrote a short proposal for a fairly hands-on workshop in the garden and was invited to meet to discuss it.
Recently I was reflecting that some of the most interesting and exciting times for me in relation to partnerships and the innovation they bring, have been when there have been short-term funding cuts, or hard economic times. I don’t think many people would disagree that we are living in challenging times. The current economic environment has government, business, not for profit organisations, community members across Australia and the world tightening their proverbial belts. At the same time, the complexity of the issues we face is increasing. Am I happy about this? Definitely not! On the other hand, there is opportunity in everything, and hard times can highlight important issues. From my experience, adversity creates a perfect opportunity for innovation to thrive.
For two years I brokered partnerships for a state government arts body. It was an enormously rewarding role and at times also enormously challenging. Without a doubt, my biggest learning from the many projects, professional learning sessions and steering groups that I participated in, is that 'partners are people'.