“Five guys on the court working together can achieve more than five talented individuals who come and go as individuals.” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
When you’re working on an outreach project, you will almost certainly have some kind of partner organizations in the project. Funders of outreach projects love to see partnerships, and sometimes they even require it. When everything works like it’s supposed to, a partnership between organizations working on a joint outreach project can spawn better ideas, create a richer program, and improve reach.
But have you ever felt like you’ve made some bad decisions in your choice of partners? (I’m not talking about your sordid relationship history here). It feels like a disaster when your plans fall apart because your partner organization had a completely different understanding of their role in the project, different priorities, or there were communication problems (okay, maybe I am).
Yesterday I was reviewing our Tools and Resources Guide for a major website update coming next week. While I was doing that, I re-discovered some great resources for choosing and maintaining partners.
The Community Tool Box from the University of Kansas has a toolkit on Creating and Maintaining Partnerships. This toolkit is made up of steps for partnering organizations to work through together. Here are some of the main categories, but the descriptions on the website are quite detailed:
The Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) has a Resource Guide: Establishing and Maintaining Effective Partnerships. It is a one page document with an emphasis on building trust among partners. Here are some of their characteristics of successful partnerships.
Balancing the emphasis on trust and respect, UIHI also has helpful guides on their Resources for Partnerships page for establishing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) so partners clearly understand what’s expected of each other.
You might take a look at these guides and think “they’re asking me to do a lot of work – I just want to do a few health information presentations at the local public library.” While you may be correct, sometimes a small project grows into something bigger, and then suddenly you find yourselves writing a proposal for a grant from the National Library of Medicine. When going into a partnership, large or small (or personal), it might be worthwhile to take a look at some of these these guides — even if you don’t do all the steps or complete an MOU, you will find something that can help you make sure your partnership is nourished and successful for as long as it needs to be.