How to Develop a Practical Approach to Partnership Working

Partnership working in progress

One of our clients is a large nature conservation charity.  A manager at the charity contacted us to ask for help with developing more partnership working between his team and others.   He was hoping for an external facilitator to design and run a workshop he had planned for his team.He described the problem he was trying to address like this:

“It’s not quite ‘conflict resolution’ (that makes it sound a bit too much like a war zone or something), but more about how to persuade others and work productively with them to achieve our goals.  We rarely have daggers at dawn but we’re often frustrated by what we see as barriers from others.”

We designed a workshop for the charity using brain-friendly techniques that engage both halves of the brain. And used multiple channels and experiences to ensure participants had fun.

Feedback from the team: “It was great to see everyone so engaged” and “It was relaxed, inclusive, very well facilitated”.

A Workshop to Facilitate Partnership Working

We used Antoinette’s PARTNER model as a framework.

1.  Interdependency Mapping 

We asked team members to start by identifying the key issue which could help or hinder their performance and to identify the top 3 or 4 issues which they considered to be most critical.

Feedback from the team: “It was good to focus on real issues.”

2.  Platform Definition

After an introduction to the PARTNER model, we focused on the Platform Definition to help the team frame the situation positively.We asked the team members to think through the following for one of the key relationships they’d identified:

  • Decide What (What is the purpose of the partnership?)
  • Decide If (Is partnership the right approach?)?
  • Decide How (How would you like the partnership to work?)

Feedback from the team: “I really enjoyed the group exercises and working with the team – it was good to share.”

3.  A day in the life of your partner

In an ideal world, the two or more partners who are working together would discuss and agree what successful partnership working would look like.  Since we only had one team with me in the workshop we encouraged them to put themselves in their partners’ shoes by thinking through a day in the life of their partner.  We asked them to produce a pen portrait for their partner that reflected what was important to them, the challenges they face, their hopes, goals etc.

Feedback from the team: “It’s good to know that problems are common and communication can work.”

4.  Creating a shared positive picture of the future.

Having encouraged the team members to think about their partners’ view as well as their own, we asked the team members to project themselves into the future and to suppose the partnership has been hugely successful.We asked them to create a Storyboard showing how the partners had worked together and what had happened as a result. The team members really enjoyed and valued this activity.

Feedback from the team: “Working in teams to produce drawings about the vision was good fun.” and “Helping to tease out common goals was a very helpful exercise.”

5.  Notice Past Success

To help the team identify what was already working about the partnership and the past successes that they could build on, we asked them to imagine a scale of 1 to 10.  We said that 10 was the shared positive picture of the future they had just created and 1 was the complete opposite.We asked team members to rate where on the scale they thought they were now and identify what is working, what progress they had made and what results they had achieved.

6.  Express Appreciation

To help participants recognise the value of differences and appreciate their partners for the skills and resources they had, we ran an “Express Appreciation” activity.  We asked each team member to write on a piece of paper what he or she valued about each partner (including members of their own team).

7.  Idea Generation and Next Steps

Finally, the group worked on developing possible ideas on how to progress up the scale and improve the partnership.  Then each person picked one or two small steps with which they could make the maximum impact over the next days and weeks.

Feedback from the team: “It was great to have the opportunity to discuss ideas.” and “Very informative good discussions came out of it – enjoyed all of it.”

At the end of the workshop, the manager said:

“That was just what we needed. The PARTNER model is practical, useful and immediately applicable.  We are going to use it to think through every partnership we work in.

How have you helped facilitate collaboration and partnership working in your organisation?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please post your comments below.


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