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L-R of partnerships

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

Launch
Legal advice
Management committee
Management
Materials
Media
Meetings
Membership
Mission
Muddle
Networking
Not invented here
Organisational culture
Outcomes
Outputs
Ownership
Participation
Partnership
Past and Future
Plan, act, review
Planning for Real
Post it notes
Power
Presentations
Press Releases
Private sector
Public meetings
Publicity
Representation

Launch

A launch can be useful both externally and internally:

It provides a formal start line if used at the beginning, when you can outline the overall process of creating the partnership.

  • It is a good time to attract media coverage.
  • lt is an opportunity for social contacts.
  • It is a deadline for making decisions and preparing materials.
  • It provides an opportunity to recognise the contribution of partners.

See also the Start up process information sheet.

Legal advice

Anyone setting up a Development Trust will need legal advice on a number of fronts: for example on the formal incorporation of the company, the liabilities of Board members, on contracts of employment and on leases.

All these areas are minefields for new organisation. They are particularly complex for charitable companies like Development Trusts. It is essential to take advice from a solicitor who specialises in the field.

Local authorities may offer the services of their legal departments, but this is not always the best route to go unless the officers involved have extensive experience with charitable companies, the time to carry out the work, and are acting independently of the other interests of the council (perhaps as funder or landowner).

Management committee

The management committee is the governing body for a project or organisation, to which staff are accountable. In a company it is the Board of directors.

Management

Development trusts, their Boards and staff, must be competent in the business, financial and staff management of their organisation. Terms like community, partnerships, Trust are beguiling &endash; it is easy to forget that they are no substitute for sound management. See each of these topics for further discussion, and the Management information sheet.

Materials

In order to communicate effectively any partnership will need a range of materials which explain its purpose, promote its activities and seek to gain support and funding. A Development Trust might need the following during its first year or two of operation:

  • A strong graphic identity - a name, logo and design style.
  • Stationery
  • A leaflet
  • A Prospectus or Project Portfolio setting out its programme
  • A newsletter
  • An annual report
  • A slide presentation or video and display materials
  • ... and maybe a Web site

The shortest material &endash; perhaps a leaflet &endash; is often the most difficult to produce because it challenges the partnership to get across its main messages.

See also the information sheet on Materials.

Media

Local media can be a great ally for a new partnership &endash; or the vehicle for constant sniping from critics. Remember news media is mainly in the business of interesting and entertaining its users, and of selling itself or advertising. It is not there as a public service to promote you. Journalists need an interesting story to tell. Would your story be worth telling to a friend outside the project? If not, why should readers or viewers be interested?

Media checklist

In dealing with journalists:

  • Consider why you want coverage &endash; for example, to publicise an event, get enquiries, show supporters or funders what you are achieving.
  • lf possible identify a reporter covering your field, or link your story to other current events.
  • Try and turn your story into an opportunity for pictures: essential for television, likely to get you more space in newspapers.
  • Prepare a press release and expect to deal with newspaper reporters on the telephone. However, stay in touch with anyone you deal with and try to meet at some stage. Personal contacts generally produce more sympathetic stories, and are invaluable if you later face a difficult situation which could lead to adverse coverage.

See also Press releases.

Meetings

Meetings are at the heart of partnership building processes, whether social get-togethers, committees, workshops, or public meetings.

Meetings checklist

For effective meetings, consider:

  • Style of the meeting. If it is to be a creative workshop rather than a committee, make sure people know that in advance.
  • An accessible venue (public transport, disabled access).
  • Child care (crèche, financial assistance).
  • What information and notice is appropriate beforehand. Provide papers with options for formal meetings, but only an outline for a workshop so that people are spontaneous.
  • Any aids you will need: charts, projectors etc.
  • The layout of the room, and scope for breaking into small groups. Avoid a platform and lecture-style seating .
  • Good management of the meeting itself, and follow-up.

See also Action plans, Committees, Public meetings, Workshops.

Membership

Companies limited by guarantee, which are the usual structure for Development Trusts, have provision for members rather than shareholders. Members may be individuals or organisations, and may have rights to appoint directors. Their powers are defined by the constitution &endash; the memorandum and articles of association of the company.

The constraints on the scope and powers of members are generally not legal. The question for those developing trusts and other partnerships is how wide or narrow do you wish the power base to be.

See also Accountability, Constitution

Mission

Mission is what you wish to achieve. The term is much favoured in business management, but can confuse people with its military or evangelical overtones. 'Purpose' is an alternative, although it has a slightly different sense &endash; I think mission has a stronger emphasis on end result.

See also Aims and objectives, Outcomes, Purpose.

Muddle

If you find you aren't sure what to do next, or just seem to go around in circles, try one or more of these techniques:

  • Check that you agree on your aims and objectives.
  • Do a SWOT analysis.
  • Brainstorm some new ideas.
  • Develop priorities by drawing up a Time Line.
  • Follow the Plan, Act , Review cycle.

Networking

Networking is the important business of making informal contacts, chatting, and picking up further contacts, and is fundamental to partnership building. It is the way to learn:

  • What issues people consider important.
  • The sort of ideas and language they find familiar.
  • Who are the key people and organisations &endash; the stakeholders.

Networking is important before other more formal information-giving like producing leaflets, staging exhibitions and holding meetings. National networking organisations may also be able to provide you with local contacts, and similar projects elsewhere.

Not invented here

The opposite of ownership, and one of the most significant barriers to participation and partnership. People are far more likely to participate effectively in partnerships if they play a part in developing ideas and action plans.

Organisational culture

The way local authorities and other large organisations traditionally work can present major barriers to partnership and community involvement. For example:

  • Officers who believe that they know best.
  • Councillors who believe they are the sole voice of the community.
  • Departments that act independently.
  • Insisting all decision-making processes follow the local authority political and statutory framework.

Fighting this head on consumes a lot of energy. Instead identify some allies, find out their agendas and &endash; if possible &endash; run some workshop which gets people out of committee mode and into some more creative thinking.

Outcomes

Outcomes is used here to describe those general results of plans and actions which you are seeking to achieve. Thinking in terms of outcomes which you may see, hear, feel as well as the more abstract aims and objectives should help clarify what to do to achieve what you want. For partnerships to work well, the outcomes sought by different parties must dovetail to some extent.

Outputs

Outputs are the measurable results of projects or programmes &endash; homes built, people who have completed training &endash; and are dear to funders who want to know what they are getting for their money.

Ownership

The stake that people have in an idea, a project or an organisation is fundamental to their commitment. For that reason, early brainstorming workshops, where everyone has a chance to contribute ideas, are important.

See also Control.

Participation

Participation is used here to describe a process by which individuals, groups and organisations are consulted about or have the opportunity to become actively involved in a project or programme of activity.

Partnership

Partnerships are formal or informal arrangements to work together to some joint purpose. In my view:

  • Informal partnerships work best when the project is specific and clearly achievable.
  • Where the task is complex and long term it may be necessary to create a more formal structure for decision-making.
  • It is difficult to tackle a wide range of issues through an informal partnership. It is better to treat this as consultation.
  • Simply setting up a partnership structure doesn't solve the problems. You still need to clarify joint purpose, values etc.

Partnerships do not have to be equal &endash; but the various parties do need to feel that they are involved to an appropriate degree.

Partnership agreement

When a Development Trust or other partnership is funded by a public body, each side may wish to develop an agreement setting out formally the terms of the grant. The funding body should provide the Trust steering group with an outline of the agreement to assist them in preparing the their bid for funds. This may be in the form of an outline business plan, and might cover the following issues:

  • The aims and objectives of the Trust
  • Board
  • Funding contributions
  • Staffing levels
  • Business plan
  • Annual reports
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Acknowledgments

See also the Agreement information sheet

Past and Future

A major problem for partnerships is that the potential partners usually have different views of the world &endash; different agendas, organisational cultures, priorities. This is a simple technique in which a group uses past experiences to think about the future.

Past and future

1 Split into groups of 3 or 4

2 Provide each group with a large piece of paper label PAST at the top, and FUTURE at the bottom, and about 20 Post-it notes.

3 Each group member writes what they thought most worthwhile or successful in the past, and what they should be tackling in future. One point to a note.

4 People stick notes on the appropriate part of the paper, and cluster them when they are similar.

5 Small groups report back to the larger group.

Adapted from Training and How to Enjoy It, John Grayson.

Plan, act, review

In order to make regular checks on progress and keep your plans under review, see development of your partnership building process as a cycle:

  • Plan how you will achieve your aims.
  • Take action on the basis of these plans.
  • Review progress regularly.
  • If necessary, modify your plans.
  • Put the new plans into action....and so on

Planning for Real®

Planning for Real is a powerful technique for involving individuals and groups in decisions about their neighbourhood, a site or building by producing a three-dimensional model. This and similar model-based techniques can be very effective in involving people because they allow 'hands on' responses, do not rely on written material, and give everyone a say. It is important that:

  • People are aware of the 'real world' constraints on making physical and other changes.
  • It is clear where responsibility for decisions lies, and who will takes ideas forward.
  • lf community interests are to be involved in implementation, there is support and training for organisational development.

Planning for Real is a registered trade mark of the Neighbourhood Initiatives Foundation. Contac them at nif@cableinet.co.uk

Post-it notes

A great technical aid to collective decision-making, and an improvement on basic Brainstorming. When running workshops give people pads of Post-its to write their ideas on, then stick them on a chart and move them around into groups.

Power

Issues of power and control and central to the development of partnerships. For example:

  • Do all key interests have an equal ability or opportunity to participate in developing in the partnership if they wish?
  • Who designs the partnership building process; to whom are they accountable?
  • Who sets the timetable and controls the funds?
  • Who makes the final decisions?

The rhetoric of partnership can often be used to disempower people if it is used &endash; consciously or unconsciously &endash; to mask these fundamental questions.

See also Control, Ownership.

Presentations

Presentations are speeches with props. These may range from a simple flip chart to slides and videos. However, the effectiveness of your presentation will depend more on careful planning than technology. The checklist below should help.

Presentation checklist

  • Define your objective. For example: to inform the audience of our new project and explain how they can be involved.
  • Brainstorm your main ideas using index cards or, if you have one, an outliner on a computer. (This is like a word processor with automatic sub-heading and sub-sub-headings).
  • Keep the main ideas to not more than five if possible. Organise others as sub-points.
  • Put yourself in the place of the audience and think what impression they will get and questions they will ask.
  • If necessary revise your presentation with as much emphasis as possible on benefits for the audience.
  • Prepare your visual aids &endash; flip chart, slides &endash; and a handout.
  • Remember KISS &endash; keep it short, and simple: one main ideas per sheet or slide. Use short phrases only as prompts to your presentation.

Press Releases

Journalists are bombarded with press releases and bin most of them. Generally personal contact produces more result on important issues. However, you may well need to produce press releases to announce events, provide background, summarise reports or circulate speeches in advance.

Checklist

  • Write the release as a news story covering who, why, what, where, when, how.
  • Use a short headline and an interesting first paragraph.
  • Avoid jargon.
  • Keep it short.
  • Include lively quotes if possible.
  • Use one side of the paper only, wide margins and double spacing.
  • Date the release, and indicate if there is a time embargo on use.
  • Provide a contact number for further enquiries.

See also Communication, Five Ws plus H, Media.

Private sector

Businesses, large or small, are as much part of any community as local residents and are key partners for Development Trusts for several reasons:

  • Trusts need business skills among both staff and Board members.
  • Companies may be able to offer help in kind of premises, equipment and staff time. Occasionally they may offer funding.
  • The private sector will be an important partner in developing Trust projects and programmes.
  • In the long term local businesses are the key to local prosperity and a healthy local economy.

Public meetings

Although widely used, public meetings are not the most effective method of involving people. While they may be useful giving information, and gaining support around a clear-cut issue, they are poor vehicles for debate and decision-making. Classic public meetings with a platform party can easily be dominated by a small number of people, and become stage sets for confrontation.

Checklist

If you do hold a public meeting:

  • Ensure good preparation and publicity.
  • Research and focus on local concerns.
  • Keep any presentations short with opportunities for response.
  • Consider breaking into small groups for some of the time.
  • Choose someone independent and locally respected as chair.
  • Ensure the venue is easily accessible.
  • Build on the results and report back on progress.

Publicity

There are three key questions to ask before embarking on any publicity:

1 Who are you trying to reach? For example, members of an organisation, the general public, sponsors, media, politicians.

2 What result do you want? For example, opinions, volunteers, funding, support.

3 How will you respond? For example, personal contact, leaflets, events or in other ways.

The answers to these questions will determine your choice of publicity method &endash; for example, exhibitions, media, events, print or audio-visual.

See also Communications, Identity and Image, Five Ws plus H.

Purpose

A statement of purpose, or mission statement, is a summary in a sentence or two of your intention &endash; your aims and objectives. Statements of purpose may start out as broad intentions like 'we aim to create a better place to live and work'. They become meaningful when the aim is followed with statements of how: for example 'by providing advise and support for practical environmental projects'. There may be a number of these 'how to' statements which are objectives. If they are measurable, they become targets.

See also Aims and objectives, Mission, Outcomes, Vision.

Representation

Representation should not be confused with involvement when creating partnerships. A token 'community representative' may become isolated and achieve less than carefully-planned process for wider community participation. On the other hand, if there is no-one on the Board of a partnership organisation to argue for this participation it may not take place.

See also Accountability.

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