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A-D of partnerships

This is one section of an A-Z of partnerships that is part of a larger guide

Accountability
Action plans
Administrative systems
Agendas
Aims and objectives
Allies
Asset base
Beneficiaries
Bids for funding
Board responsibilities
Bottom up and top down
Brainstorming
Business management
Business planning
Case studies
Chairperson
Champions
Change
Charitable company
Charitable status
Charts
Commitment
Committees
Communication
Community
Community involvement
Community profiling
Community Trusts and Foundations
Companies
Competence
Constitution
Consultants
Control
Core costs
Core funding
Council members
Democracy
Development trusts
Development officer
Director

Accountability

Accountability has three main meanings for partnerships:

  • Accounting for the use of funds and other resources.
  • Knowing who is answerable to whom within the organisation.
  • The accountability of the organisation to the wider community.

It is often easier to clarify the first than the second and third, because funders and sponsors set targets and measures of outputs they require for their money.

Accountability within a partnership organisation may be difficult if staff have different employers, the steering group or management committee is not formally constituted, and there are a number of less formal working groups. To clarify internal accountability consider:

  • Who can stop someone doing something?
  • Whose permission is needed for someone to act?
  • Who pays them?

If these questions give different answers, expect problems.

Accountability of a partnership to the wider community is even more difficult to define. Is it best done by formal representation, or the way a partnership operates?

Participants in a workshop at the Development Trusts Association annual conference in 1995 concluded 'Accountability is much wider than the need to account for the use of resources. It requires a need to be seen to listen and respond to local issues and concerns, to be open and receptive to ideas and criticism. Structures for Development Trusts needed to be able to accommodate this - through both policy and membership arrangements where possible.'

See also Control, Representation, Terms of reference, Board information sheet.

Action plans

The process of setting up partnerships is complex, with seemingly endless lists of things to do. Action plans answer questions of: what do we do next? who does it? with what resources? Action plans may be complex plans covering a year or more, or the outcome of a decision-making meeting covering the next few weeks. Action minutes after meetings should ensure something happens, and clarify accountability.

See also Workload planning.

Action minutes

Action

Deadline

Responsibility

Accountability

Resources

1st task

By when?

By whom?

For whom?

Money, skills?

2nd task

By when?

By whom?

For whom?

Money, skills?

Administrative systems

If you are creating any partnership structure you will need an administrative system which will involve some or all of the following:

  • A card index box or database for contacts.
  • A diary.
  • Correspondence between members of the group, officials, funders, consultants etc.
  • Minutes of meetings and action lists.
  • Plans and proposals.
  • Reference material.
  • A filing system.

Later you will need more complex administrative and financial systems to run the partnership, comparable with any small business or effective public or voluntary body. Systems should established early, and be under the control of those creating or running the partnership.

It is tempting to offload responsibility if some other body offers to take responsibility for admin or book-keeping, but a mistake.

See also Management information sheet

Agendas

Agendas ensure there is an agreed plan for a meeting. Hidden agendas ensure it is impossible to plan anything. If different interests in a partnership are seeking different outcomes, and not declaring them, the result is likely to be frustration and growing mistrust. Challenge by asking: 'What are we trying to achieve?'

See also Outcomes, Team building, Vision.

Aims and objectives

Aims are a written description of what a group or organisation is trying to achieve, and the objectives are the methods by which they may do that. The different interests in a partnership will all have their own aims and objectives &endash; so focus on where these overlap.

Aims and objectives will be incorporated in the objects clause of the constitution.

See also Agendas, Mission, Outcomes, Purpose, Vision.

Allies

In the early days of forming a partnership you will need allies &endash; people who:

  • Can provide personal support and act as a sounding board.
  • Have experience of working in partnership organisations.
  • Can offer specialist knowledge, advice or other help in kind.
  • Host meetings with key interests.
  • Will act as a champion for your ideas.

See also Community.

Asset base

Partnership organisations like Development Trusts are engaged in activities which are unprofitable and for social benefit. If all their projects made money they could be carried out by commercial enterprises.

In the early days these unprofitable activities may be paid for from core funding or projects grants, but this funding inevitably declines. One way to cover these long term costs is by vesting the Trust with an asset &endash; some land or buildings which can be let to generate revenue. Securing or creating these assets is one of the main concerns of trusts aiming for sustainability.

See also Financial sustainability information sheet

Beneficiaries

Organisations are generally created by one set of people to benefit another. In for-profit companies the main beneficiaries are likely to be shareholders, if the organisation is run well.

In non-profit partnerships, including Development Trusts, the beneficiaries are usually interests in the wider community.

One sure way to keep the organisation on track is to keep asking: Who is it for? What value are we providing? Representing beneficiaries is one of the key roles of the Board of a Trust.

Bids for funding

Increasingly partnership organisations must make formal bids for resources, governed by strict guidelines. These bids may trigger the partnership-building process, influence the nature and style of the partnerships, as well as dictate funding. In preparing bids:

  • Treat the bid as the start of business planning, if you are forming a new organisation.
  • Aim for a mix of funding &endash; not just one source.
  • Think through aims and objectives independently of the bid. Meet your own purpose as well as your funder's.
  • Place the bid in a partnership-building process.

See also Bid document information sheet

Board responsibilities

Development trusts and other partnerships are often incorporated as companies limited by guarantee. The management committee is then a Board of directors, with responsibilities in company law. If the Trust is registered as a charity, the Board are also Trustees, with additional responsibilities under charity law.

The Board should not see themselves simply as an advisory group for the staff, nor as just representing the interests of other organisations to which they may belong. They should be in charge of policy, and make key decisions in the development and running of the Trust.

See also Governance, charitable status, companies, Board information sheet

Bottom up and top down

A term frequently used to distinguish change or activity among community interests (bottom up) from that in government (top down). Development trusts and other partnerships may start either way. What is important for a successful partnership is that wherever the process starts it leads to clear, shared objectives, respect and trust between different interests, and compatible ways of working.

See also Start up summary information sheet

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is defined as 'a means of getting a large number of ideas from a group of people in a short time'. It is one of the most widely used workshop techniques, and useful when partnerships are trying to shape their agenda and tackle problems creatively.

After you have defined the problem or question:

  • Throw up every idea you can. Don't discuss or reject any.
  • Record ideas on a chart &endash; one idea may spark off another.
  • When ideas dry up, cross off those agreed as ludicrous.
  • Look for common themes and possible solutions.
  • Draw up an action plan.

See also Charts, Workshops.

Business management

Development trusts are trying to do two things:

  • Pursue an agenda which benefits the community through environmental, economic or social change
  • Run a not for profit business.

In order to achieve the first they need to do the second effectively &endash; so business management is a core competence.

See also Competence and management information sheets

Business planning

Any Trust or other partnership organisation which aims to keep going in the long term needs a business or development plan. For a non-profit organisation the plan will balance the costs and income of three parts of its operation:

  • The projects, products or services provided by the organisation.
  • The core staff, premises and equipment.
  • Any fund raising.

The business plan should cover at least three years and show how fund raising and any income earned from projects covers the core costs.

See also Companies, Constitution, Fundraising, Business planning information sheet.

Case studies

In planning to create a Development Trust or other partnership organisation, reading case studies of other projects may give you ideas for your own, although similarities are often difficult to see unless the case study is 'unpacked' around key issues. One way to clarify what you are trying to achieve is to try and write a case study of your own project as it might appear in a few years time.

See also the Case study information sheet

Chairperson

The success of a Development Trust depends substantially on the qualities of two key individuals &endash; the chair of the Board of directors, and the full-time executive director.

Criteria for an effective chair

  • Experience in running meetings
  • Key contacts and influence in the community
  • Appropriate status
  • Sufficient time to contribute day to day guidance
  • Understands business
  • Politically independent
  • Leadership qualities

See also Board information sheet

Champions

During the early stages of creating a partnership you will need some champions. These are people who believe in the idea, promote it to others, and stay with you during the sticky patches. If they have influence and ways they can offer direct help, so much the better. Look for champions in public, private and voluntary sectors, and in the local community, who will bring others with them.

See also Allies.

Change

Partnerships usually involve change: seeing things from other people's point of view, respecting into other people's ways of doing things and changing your own. This can be threatening, but it can also be enormously creative. It can painful, but it can also be fun. Either way it takes time &endash; which is why creating partnerships should be seen as process, not a structural fix.

Charitable company

Most Development Trusts are charitable companies: non profit distributing companies whose objects enable them to apply for charitable status. The Board of directors are also trustees, and are unpaid. Any surpluses are retained within the company.

See also Board responsibilities, Company, Trust, the Constitution information sheet.

Charitable status

A charity is not a particular form of organisation, different from a company or community group. Both may be charities, if they are accepted and registered as such by the Charity Commissioners. (In Scotland and Northern Ireland registration is directly with the Inland Revenue). To be registered as a charity an organisation must restrict its activities to one or more of the following objects:

  • The relief of poverty.
  • The advancement of religion.
  • The advancement of education.
  • Other purposes beneficial to the community.

Charitable status adds credibility to an organisation, provides some tax benefits, and enables it to apply to large charities for funding. In general charities can only make gifts to other charities. There are, however, restrictions on trading and members of any management committee have substantial additional responsibilities as trustees.

Development trusts and other partnerships may seek charitable status if their objects are charitable, they have an appropriate form, and are for wide public benefit.

Not all regeneration work is charitable, and anyone seeking to create a Development Trust with charitable status should consult a solicitor specialising in the field. In order to overcome these difficulties, some charitable Development Trusts set up subsidiary trading companies.

See also Charitable company, Legal issues. Tax. Trading companies.

Charts

These may be flip charts &endash; pads of large paper used with an easel &endash; or simply lining paper tacked to the wall. They are an essential tool of partnership-building, because they help you break out of committee mode. Committees need agendas and minutes &endash; workshops need charts. In using charts:

  • Stick charts up as you write them, so people can see early work.
  • Offer the pen to others in the group.
  • Keep charts or photograph them as a record.

Commitment

The centre line of partnership-building is gaining commitment. It depends on developing a shared vision, and some ownership of the ideas which are to be put into practice. That is best done by networking and running workshops to complement committee work and formal reports.

Committees

Committees of partnership organisations can pose particular problems because almost inevitably people come from different background, and probably haven't worked together before. In order to overcome this, run workshops and organise socials.

Meetings checklist

To improve your committee meetings, get members to agree to:

  • Read papers beforehand and bring them to the meeting.
  • Check what they don't understand and research background.
  • Turn up at the right time and stick to the agenda.
  • Think before speaking and listen to other people .
  • Seek decisions on which all can agree.
  • Record what needs to be done.
  • Read the action minutes and take any action necessary.

Communication

Partnerships depend on good communication &endash; both in the early stages when everyone has a different idea of what may be planned, and later when there are lots of projects and more people involved.

Effective communication involves considering how your message will be received as well as how you send it: the meaning of any communication lies in the response you get. Obvious barriers are:

  • Lack of clarity about what you want to get across.
  • Jargon.
  • Hostility to you or your organisation.
  • Lack of credibility in the message or the person giving it.

See also the Communications information sheet

Community

Community is a term so widely applied that it is in danger of losing any meaning, like 'members of the public'. Aren't we all? At worst it may be used by officials to mean anyone who is not 'us' &endash; an undifferentiated mass of activists, organisations and uninvolved residents. Marilyn Taylor, in Signposts to Community Development, suggests it is more useful to think of a large number of over-lapping communities distinguished by the characteristics of their members, and the common interests which tie members together and give these characteristics a shared significance.

The characteristics might be, for example:

  • Personal (age, gender, ethnicity).
  • Beliefs.
  • Economic status.
  • Activities.
  • Services provided or used.
  • Place.

Common characteristics do not necessarily mean people identify with each other as a community. The factors which give these characteristics a shared meaning are a cultural heritage, social relationships, common economic interests, or the basis for political power. Communities may be short or long term.

Because individuals may belong to many different communities at the same time, different allegiances may people pull in different directions. There are likely to be competing and conflicting interests within communities.

Community involvement

One of the fundamental principles of Development Trusts is that they have some element of community control in their management structure, and that they operate for community benefit. However, partnership bodies can be just as inward looking and autocratic as larger bureaucracies. In planning community involvement:

  • Think beyond 'the community' to different interests.
  • Consider the level of participation which may be appropriate.
  • Meet people informally.
  • Use a range of participation methods &endash; print, events, workshops &endash; if you are aiming for more than basic information giving.

Community profiling

Community profiling is a social, environmental and economic description of an area which is used to inform local decision-making. The pack produced by the School for Advanced Urban Studies offers a 10-step approach which deals with how to form a group to undertake the profile, gather and analyse data, present it, and use the results for planning action.

Community Trusts and Foundations

Community Trusts are sometime confused with Community Development Trusts. However, Community Trusts are independent fund-raising and grant-making charitable trusts. Like Development Trusts they serve a specific geographical area, but unlike them do not generally carry out projects. If there is one in your area, they may be a useful source of information about community needs in the area, and may support community initiatives. Community trusts raise funds from a wide range of sources, especially those previously untapped, with the aim of establishing an endowment fund. Interest from this large sum of capital is used for grant-making in the area. The Association for Community trusts and Foundations will provide more information.

Companies

A particular form of company, the company limited by guarantee, is increasingly popular as an organisational structure for larger community initiatives and partnerships. It is the most usual structure for Development trusts. Companies limited by guarantee do not have shareholders &endash; instead their members agree to pay a nominal sum, often only £1, if the company fails. The rights of these members to appoint members of the governing body &endash; the Board &endash; are defined by the constitution &endash; the Memorandum and Articles of Association. The company does not distribute surpluses as profits, but re-invests them in the company. If the members of the Board are unpaid, and the company has appropriate objects, it can seek charitable status. See Voluntary but Not Amateur, and Just About Managing? for more information on companies.

See also Constitution information sheet.

Competence

Successful Development Trusts display competence in five main areas: governance, management, communications, financial sustainability and project management..

See also the Competence information sheet, and others on each of these areas.

Constitution

A constitution sets out governing rules for an organisation. In the case of a company it is the Memorandum and Articles of Association. Constitutions are important at the beginning, when a body is being set up, and when there is an argument about control. Generally:

  • Clarify aims and objectives, vision, and an action plan before drafting the constitution.
  • Avoid using the constitution to resolve disputes.
  • Consult a solicitor with experience of non-profit organisations if you are forming a company.

See also the Constitution information sheet.

Consultants

In my view consultants may be helpful for partnerships if:

  • They act as 'process consultants' to help groups through the partnership-building process, or
  • They have clear briefs for specific project studies.
  • They provide support and training around key issues.

It is a mistake to ask consultants to design partnership structures or programmes unless they work closely with all the key interests.

Development trusts may offer consultancy services in helping form new partnerships, and offer a wider range of consultancy services in order to generate revenue.

Control

Control in partnerships tends to lie with those who have the money, skills and administration &endash; however well intentioned they may be in seeking to involve others. For that reason partnerships formed around existing organisations may seem very unequal to other participants.

Development Trusts aim to have some element of community control, usually through representation on their Board

Core costs

One of the three main elements of the business plan of a Development Trust: the others are core funding and projects. Core costs will include staffing, training, premises and other overheads. With a staff of three or four these costs will be in excess of £100,000, unless some costs are covered indirectly through provision of help in kind and secondments.

See also Business planning, and Core costs information sheet

Core funding

In its early days a Development Trust will require core funding to cover some or all of its core costs &endash; that is, funding which is not directly linked to any one project. Funders generally expect to withdraw or taper funders after three to five years, so a Trust will need to earn income from projects to cover core costs.

See also Business planning.

Council members

Members of local authorities are essential allies in any partnership, and may be Board members of a Development Trust. Even if they do not play a formal part in Trust activities, it is important that they are fully briefed on its activities and the organisation as complementing rather than competing with their own role.

'Do local councillors see community based regeneration as a threat? Some do &endash; a lot do. To a certain extent this is a function of how they perceive power in their community and how jealously they guard that power. ' David Sparks, Association of Metropolitan Authorities, DTA conference 1995.

Democracy

Incorporated partnerships like Development Trusts which aim to regenerate neighbourhoods may face challenges over their accountability to local people, and calls that their governing bodies &endash; the Board &endash; should be democratically elected.

Some trusts do hold elections, either within the community as a whole, or among local organisations. However, there may be tension between this desire for representation and the need to appoint Board members who have the confidence and competence to run a company, and possibly also act as trustees.

See also Accountability

Development trusts

The Development Trusts Association defines Development Trusts as:

Community based organisations working for the sustainable regeneration of their area through a mixture of economic, environmental and social initiatives. They are independent, not-for-profit bodies &endash; often registered charities &endash; which are committed to the involvement of local people in the process of regeneration and aim to be locally accountable in the work they do.

They should not be confused with Community Trusts which are local fund raising and grant-making bodies.

See also Community Trusts

Development officer

The process of setting up a Development Trust may well take a year and involve the equivalent of several days work a week. If funds are available the steering group for the Trust should appoint a development officer to carry out this work. He or she may or may not eventually become the executive director of the Trust.

Tasks for a development officer

  • Researching other examples of Development Trusts
  • Setting up a temporary office
  • Networking local contacts
  • Identifying main issues and project opportunities, and other feasibility work
  • Organising workshops and a seminar
  • Developing the bid document or business plan with the steering group
  • Servicing the steering group
  • Preparing communication materials
  • Working with the steering group on incorporation of the Trust, fundraising, staff recruitment and launch

See also Development officer information sheet.

Director

The term director may have two meanings in a Development Trust: first, a member of the Board who is a director under company law, and probably unpaid; second, the chief member of staff, perhaps termed the executive director. He or she will probably not be a member of the Board, and certainly cannot be if the Trust is a charity.

See also Governance, Management.

On to E-K of Partnerships