Chapter 14: Steps forward
While cross sector partnerships have proliferated and matured, it is clear that much work is required to enhance their practice and ultimate effectiveness. Outside, informed perspectives can intervene to strengthen partnerships. As with singular organizations, informed outsiders can independently diagnose partnerships’ challenges and opportunities. At every stage, partnerships can benefit from guidance from a third party. Moreover, it is critical to recognize the numerous categories partnerships must consider for their ongoing capacity. Marga Incorporated, the company founded by the author in 2000, provides strategic advice and research to philanthropic initiatives and partnerships. Marga developed a methodology to advise and strengthen partnerships based on observations of partnership tendencies and direct experience in consulting actual cross sector collaborations. It addresses partnerships’ needs in nine categories: Assessment; Identifying partners; Establishing win/win possibilities; Convening partners; Conducting relevant research; Facilitating strategic plans; Designing projects; Creating products; Evaluating progress. As previously noted, preconditions prior to partnerships’ creation can shape the approach to developing a collaborative effort. Thorough assessment can surface political, cultural, and capacity considerations vital to a partnership’s long-term potential. Assessment is a critical component of the upfront work emphasized by participants in partnerships. Entering blindly can be highly detrimental. Awareness of essential dynamics allows partnerships to incorporate potential pitfalls into their plans. Effective assessment can make the difference in helping partnerships evolve strategically, making logical decisions and establishing realistic goals. Assessment sheds light on potential limitations and helps partnerships stay within themselves. As noted repeatedly by focus group participants, not every issue requires the combined effort of representatives of the public
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