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How to develop lasting partnerships

Partnerships may be formal or informal, involve networking or detailed relationship-building, and create grass-roots relationships and/or strategic alliances. Developing partnerships is critical to the success of any community initiative.

Although developing partnerships involves a lot of work for what may seem like little obvious or immediate return, the long-term impact is usually worth the wait, as Fair Share Trust Local Agents’ examples below show. 

1

Local groups working together

There are significant advantages to be gained from local groups working together – they can share spaces, pool resources, plan together so that they offer complementary activities and even join together formally to fundraise or create a larger single group.

Hull City Venture recognised that when this happens, it can have “much wider and long-lasting effect[s]”; however it also recognised that groups may need a helping hand.

The local panel, working with the FST worker, decided that it would place greater emphasis on becoming a “partnership broker,” which would aim to bring groups together in order to build better partnerships in the area for when the local Fair Share Trust programme ends.

2

Partnerships - a road to survival?

When the much needed Drumchapel Community Transport (DCT) ran into problems, it was the strength of Scottish Community Foundation’s (SCF) partnerships which really helped steer things in the right direction.

 By bringing the right partners around the table, SCF put in place the level of support needed to get the project back on the road.

Working with the partners they had brought together, SCF brokered a merger between DCT and Community Transport Glasgow which meant DCT kept its identity and “local accountability” through smart governance arrangements and also meant this important local service was saved from closure.

Quick access by SCF to the right partners really was the road to survival for this project.

3

Retaining local ownership

Partnership work does not mean losing control. As Community Foundation for Greater Manchester (CFGM) says, because FST is a strategic fund, there’s “a necessity to involve local authorities and/or Local Strategic Partnerships” and this can lead to confusion when statutory bodies see themselves as responsible for awarding FST money.

CFGM stresses the importance of being clear with everyone involved that the FST local panel and Local Agent are responsible for awarding and delivering the FST programme.

Perceived imbalances between the statutory agencies and the applicant projects can be very harmful to the latter.

The Safer Charleston Project in Dundee, Scotland successfully managed this tension by forming sub-groups to help manage the project, with members drawn from agencies with relevant experience.

By creating sub-groups, the Tenants & Residents’ Association was able to work in partnership with others whilst managing the project so it “will always remain driven by the community.”

4

Network and save money

Good networking saves money and builds beneficial relations. When Disability Can Do in Caerphilly, Wales built working relations with the Citizens Advice Bureau, it knew it would be fruitful but not that it would save money.

From their positive partnership, the two organisations made the decision to move into new premises together which meant sharing information, skills and office costs!

5

Partnership rules!

Setting ground rules before entering into a partnership is the message from many Local Agents.

Taking the time to plan roles and responsibilities can make or break a project, as County Durham Community Foundation (CDCF) discovered. CDCF had made considerable effort to firmly cement the amount of time other council-employed Community Development Workers would spend on FST work, which meant that when a FST-funded council-based project worker went on long-term sick leave, Darlington Borough Council honoured their time commitment enabling the whole project to move forward.

This is particularly important when it involves a FST funded post being housed & managed in another organisation. Another Local Agent discovered the importance of this when a FST funded community development worker, employed through a partner organisation, gave little recognition to Fair Share Trust as the funder.

Agreeing an early understanding around areas such as branding, press releases and even the email addresses used by the post-holder, can all help promote Fair Share Trust and avoid awkward partnership discussions later.

6

Referring partners

Developing strong relationships built on trust and evidence is a critical part of many projects funded through Fair Share Trust Local Agents. Projects often rely on other agencies and groups to make referrals to them - referrals are far more likely to come when good relations have been built.

South Lanarkshire Volunteering Enterprise’s Pure Dead Brilliant mentoring project knows all about this.

The project successfully recruited, trained and matched volunteer mentors with young ‘hard-to-reach’ people, supporting them to take the next steps in their development.

The project worked with 10 partner agencies and says that “closer working relationships with partners have been established as trust and credibility have developed over time.” All of this has “made referring young people for further training easier and more effective”.

The lesson: build trust, build your project and better support your beneficiaries.

7

High visibility partnerships

A highly innovative piece of partnership work by Derbyshire Community Foundation resulted in some excellent community work.

Knowing local people were concerned about talking to police and councillors about their issues, a team of police, Antisocial Behaviour and waste management workers and residents took to the streets in high visibility ‘Councillor/Resident on Patrol’ jackets.

The walking route was carefully planned through difficult areas. Many people approached the team and issues were raised which would otherwise have stayed unreported … visible partnership at its best.

8

Get the nod from the top - or in writing!

Whilst informal partnerships may work well on a nod from those involved, when it comes to slightly more formal arrangements, it needs a little more to make sure it all works. One Local Agent found that although a local statutory body had agreed to take the lead on a project, workers within the body did not prioritise the project to ensure it would happen.

It was only when the Local Agent stepped in and had a quiet word with the Chief Executive of the Local Authority that things started moving. Getting that early agreement from those with the say-so is still essential, regardless of your local relations. Better still, get it in writing!

9

Recommendations

  • Agree a shared set of values from the start
  • Determine the commitment (time and money) from each partner
  • Set down the roles and responsibilities of each partner
  • Establish who will lead the partnership, make clear who will be acknowledged and how
  • Set this down in a contract or MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) – it will save you time in the long run!

Further information

Information and contacts for Fair Share Trust Local Agents .

Contributors

Page last edited Jul 25, 2017 History

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