5 questions to ask before partnering

Getting started with any type of collaboration or partnering is not easy. Finding the right organisations and people to come together and work on an initiative can be a challenge. Keeping them together and delivering greater impacts is even harder.

How you start your partnering process can be critical to its long-term success. Getting prepared by asking the right questions up front can give you a better chance of reaching that ultimate success you are seeking. So what are the questions you should ask? We have put together 5 key questions to ask before venturing into any form of collaboration or partnering arrangement and these are:

  • Why partner?

The fundamental question is why would you want to work with other organisations. What is it that you are hoping to achieve by engaging with others that you cannot achieve by yourself? It is very easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm of an idea or initiative that may involve working with others, but you need to take a step back and really consider what alternative approaches are available.

Partnering and especially complex cross sector partnering can take a lot of time and resources so there needs to be a clear value proposition to embrace this approach. And there has to be an overarching mutual benefit for partners to come together and stay together. Taking the time before you start to consider all the options is time well spent.

  • Are we ready to partner?

We often find that organisations have been involved in some form of collaboration or partnering, but do not have a consistent approach to how they should do it. There have been no internal conversations around what do we mean by partnering, when should we do it and what business processes we need to support it?

So you need to take a hard look internally to see just what partnering experience and skills you have available, what capacity you have to engage with others and what resources you could bring to a partnering process. You also need to have some understanding of the strategic direction for the organisation and how any potential partnering initiative could align with this direction.

  • What permission do I have?

Early engagement with partnering involves getting together with representatives from other organisations to explore what the partnering could be about and how working together would have a mutual benefit. As these conversations continue relationships are developed and ideas generated. Then some decisions have to be made about how to move forward.

But what permission do you have to make decisions? What discussions have you had about the proposed partnering initiative internally and what support do you have for making decisions.

Getting clear about what level of empowerment you have with respect to any partnering initiative is essential. The greater the empowerment you and your partners have the faster the partnering will move forward. 

  • What do I know about the others?

Coming together with other organisations is not easy, especially if you have had little contact previously. It is also easy to make assumptions based on previous experiences or things you’ve observed. We often can bring our biases and prejudices to the table so it is important to fully understand just who you may be partnering with.

Taking the time to find out as much as possible about potential partners prior to and in early meetings will pay handsome dividends as you move through the partnering process. It will also help you to think about who else may need to be involved in the partnering – have you the right mix of diverse organisations with the skillsets and resources needed to tackle that wicked problem? 

  • Is now the right time?

When starting a partnering initiative another factor to consider is the timing. You may have a tough problem to solve, some excellent potential partner organisations and all looks set to go. But are there any external influences that may sink your partnering efforts soon after you get started?

It may be a change in Chief Executive in a partner organisation, a change of government or major restructuring for one of the partners. Casting an eye to the horizon and thinking about what external influences could impact on the partnering may influence when you get started.

These are just a few of the key questions that we believe you should ask before you start partnering, but there are many more questions to be asked as you navigate your way through the partnering process. Being able to ask the right question at the right time is a critical success factor for effective partnering.

Let us know what you think of these questions and if there are other questions you think should you ask before partnering with others?


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