Step 3: Implementing and developing the partnership
In this phase, negotiations have been concluded and the parties sign an official understanding that lays down the rights and obligations of each party.
The plan of action is implemented, monitored and adapted over time so as to guarantee that the objectives are met. It is also advisable to take stock of the relationships between partners from time to time so as to maintain good communication and ensure that each party is satisfied.
3.1 Drafting a partnership agreement
The agreement makes the content of the negotiations official.
For a solid partnership agreement, it is essential to describe the scenario that will be implemented once the partnership becomes operational. To avoid leaving out certain key contractual elements, it is important to make sure that the agreement contains the:
- identification of parties;
- commitment of each party;
- duration of the agreement;
- purpose of the agreement;
- rights and obligations of each party;
- conditions for prolongation, suspension and cancellation of the agreement;
- procedures for the start-up and follow-up of the partnership.
It is only when the contractual arrangements have been finalized that the partnership becomes visible to the community and staff.
3.2 Managing a partnership
Once the agreement has been signed, the procedure must be planned in order to explore all of the options offered by the partnership. How can we ensure that the partnership is managed efficiently and effectively? What precautions should we take? What methodology should we adopt?
This is an extremely tricky stage because it is where the partnership moves from theory to practice. It is therefore necessary to differentiate between the two main elements of the implementation and management of the partnership: the organizational aspect and the human aspect.
3.2.1 The organizational aspect
In the drafting of a partnership project, we can identify two major phases: the preparation phase, during which any adjustments are made, and the operational phase, in which the choices made are put into effect. In short, you must plan before you act.
Planning consists of describing the way in which one or more actions will be carried out over time. It helps the group of partners to translate a general intention into a specific action. Planning occurs at many levels in partnerships, from conception to performance assessment.
Consequently, it is important to:
- specify in detail the stages of project execution and draw up comprehensive terms of references that will be the common working document;
- establish a timetable to determine the frequency with which stakeholder in the partnership should meet;
- anticipate financial needs, identify the aid programmes that are available and draft a provisional budget (e.g. for the funding request);
- prioritize actions and consider the interaction of activities;
- write regular reports summing up the ideas and comments of each stakeholder.
Download assessment tool 9: Funding plan
3.2.2 The human aspect
A partnership is not merely a set of strategies and methods, it is above all a coming together of individuals among whom relationships form and develop.
Building and maintaining good relationships with partners are often neglected steps because they always require much time and effort. However, conflicts and misunderstandings can be obstacles to attaining common goals. These conflicts often stem from lack of understanding, dialogue, and transparency or from power issues. Consequently, it is strongly recommended that you spend the necessary time building the bases mentioned previously, setting aside time for dialogue among partners and for follow-up and evaluation of relationships. Example: Some internal tension may arise between an NGO involved in pursuing values-driven objectives, and a private company primarily motivated by profit. Even if they pursue a common goal, the reasons behind their motivation differ: increase sales for financial profit versus increase sales for the benefit of the cultural community.
While the rules governing work are set out in the agreement, behaviour resulting from a particular mindset cannot be regulated. Indeed, some elements can only be measured on the ground, face to face with stakeholders. Mutual trust and the will to cooperate begin with individuals. Consequently, turning to line managers may be a possible solution for resolving conflicts or making decisions in the event of a dispute.
A few tips:
- Provide staff of the entities involved with the full details of the partnership: objectives, expected outcomes, and its direct and indirect consequences on the staff structure;
- Designate a contact person/coordinator for each partner organization;
- Agree on the means (telephone, mail, etc.) and frequency of communication, taking into account any constraints specific to each partner (location, Internet connection, etc.);
- Disseminate, exchange and share information in order to develop mutual trust;
- Contact partners regularly to gather ideas and concerns, thereby encouraging their involvement;
- Express your opinion while respecting the other, do not impose your ideas, and avoid insincere tones – these are the basic rules of communication.
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