S-Z of partnerships
This is one section of an A-Z of partnerships that is part of a larger guide
This guide argues that events are the milestones in creating partnerships, and one of the main milestones should be a conference or seminar at which all the key interests come together to commit their support to the new organisation. This is best held after a series of workshop, but before all decisions on projects and structure have been taken.
Large meetings and committees are not good for working through difficult issues. You can often make a lot more process by taking some time out in smaller groups and reporting back.
Breaking into groups
In order to allow members of a large group a say:
Among the committee meetings and workshop sessions allow time for social events where people can get to know each informally. People are far more likely to get involved and support something which is fun.
Development trusts and other partnerships of any size will require staff, and some of these at least should be directly employed by the Trust. Secondees and volunteers can be immensely valuable, but only operate effectively if they have support and guidance. Consequently the Board of a Trust will have to consider appropriate recruitment procedures, terms and conditions of service and other issues of staff management.
Development trusts often have two senior key staff &endash; the executive director and the project manager &endash; supported by an administrator.
During the start up process the steering group will require funds to cover a range of items. Costs will depend on how much help in kind they can attract. For example:
See also the information sheet Start up budget
The start up process for a Development Trust or other partnership should be directed by a steering group. If the partnership is to become a company, the steering group should be a 'shadow' Board &endash; acting as if they were the Board, even though they may not be the same individuals who will ultimately take responsibility.
Useful qualities in members of a Trust steering group are:
In order to ensure all parties play a part:
See also the Steering group information sheet
Successful partnerships are not created solely by choosing the right structure, any more than marriages are made by marriage vows. They should be founded on a clear purpose, trust, agreement on responsibilities &endash; and that take time. Consider:
I suggest that for big programmes where a number of interests want a real stake over a long period, go for a company. For short-term projects work through existing structures, and fora.
See also Accountability, Constitution, Terms of reference.
It is tempting, in forming a partnership, to concentrate mainly on formal structure &endash; because that determines where power and control lies. However, just as important in the long term is the style of the organisation: is it open and accessible, does it offer opportunities for personal development to those involved, is it an empire-builder, or is it prepared to work with others?
A successful partnership will have a shared view of these issues internally, and practice what it preaches externally.
A useful early exercise for a steering group is to brainstorm the words by which members would like the partnership described.
Development trusts are generally committed to sustainability on three fronts:
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It's a good technique to start planning a partnership.
When you are clear what your aim is:
Development trusts have some tax advantages over private for-profit companies if they have charitable status. Charities enjoy the following exemptions:
Additionally they can get tax relief on money donated from others e.g. gift aid, and investment income is paid at gross not net.
Team building is the process of helping a group develop shared aims and objectives, values and a plan to put them into action. People working together are better able to get to know each other than, for example, members of a steering group meeting every month or two &endash; so team building workshops can be particularly important for partnerships. If possible use in a trainer who specialises in team building to plan a programme. If not, an 'away day' with a facilitator to work on simple techniques like Brainstorming and SWOT can achieve a lot.
Any steering or working group should have clear terms of reference covering:
Everything takes longer than you think &endash; even when you know it does. Drawing a timeline is a simple technique to set priorities among activities and events which must be completed within a given period of time
See also Workload planning.
Charities cannot engage in income-generating trading unless it is pursuit of their objectives. They can, however, set up subsidiary trading companies which covenant profits back to the charity. If you are considering this type of arrangement consult a solicitor and an accountant experienced in the field. While the option may appear attractive, many charities have found trading companies problematic. Unless well run, they can cost more than they earn.
Trust is an essential foundation for partnership. It comes from working together and through that discovering shared values and ways of doing things. In order to develop trust:
Trust is a term rather loosely used for different types of organisations. When lawyers use 'Trust' they may mean a legal arrangement created through a Trust deed in which trustees are bound to use funds provided by a benefactor to assist beneficiaries. Trust is also used in the title of various partnership organisations like Development Trusts and community trusts. Here it does not a have a strict legal meaning, but usually implies that the organisation is a charitable company or has charitable purposes.
If a Development Trust or other partnership is a charitable company, the Board of directors will also be trustees &endash; that is, they will have responsibilities under the Charities Acts as well under company law. These responsibilities are wide ranging, and trustees should be well briefed and offered training in their role.
Values are statements of what we consider important. Since they may be emotive, political, and difficult to express, they are frequently hidden. However it is difficult to understand each other or reach agreement if we are unclear about values &endash; and so shared values are fundamental to successful partnerships.
For example, council officers faced with a tight project timetable may be frustrated by a community group which insists on numerous meetings, held in the evenings, leading to the appointment of a representative steering group. The officers value cost-effective delivery of 'product' acceptable to their political masters and the Government; the group values openness and democratic process. In groups where there may be underlying differences of values it is often most productive to concentrate first on what there is in common by discussing outcomes &endash; what you would like to happen at the end of the day &endash; and how you can get there.
The idea of a vision of the future seems to me rather broader than purpose or mission, because it places more emphasis on values and approach &endash; how you do things as well as the result you achieve. Vision may be a helpful term if you are using participation techniques that encourage people to create pictures of what they want, or develop models. Partnerships need vision &endash; and visions.
See Past and Future, and the Vision information sheet.
This blanket term is often used to cover a wide range of organisations which are very different from each other:
There will be a wide range of community and voluntary organisations in any community, and they may be concerned about the creation of any new body which may compete with them for scarce resources. They may also be suspicious &endash; with good reason &endash; of initiatives which are simply devices for large organisations to access Government funds by claiming they are working in partnership.
Anyone seeking to create a Development Trust should consider what benefits the Trust will bring beyond those offered by existing bodies, and seek to recruit them as allies in the start up process. They may otherwise become enemies.
See also Community.
A working group is a small group set up with a specific task to complete, with members chosen for their appropriate skills. Working groups are a good way of making sure interested people can get involved and make a contribution, and may be more appropriate than committees with broad responsibilities. In setting up working groups:
This technique , which combines action plans with a time line, can be useful in planning the development of a partnership. However, while helpful, it is important to recognise that partnership building doesn't run on rails, and there will be many excursions and diversions from the chart!
Project management computer software is available to carry out workload planning, but can be rather time-consuming to use.
See also Time line.
Workshops are meetings at which a small group, perhaps aided by a facilitator, explore issues, develop ideas and make decisions. They are the less formal and creative counterpart to public meetings and committees.
See also the Workshops information sheet