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Building Partnerships Map

Introduction

This module will support your understanding and use of the Building Partnerships Map Tool from the DIY Toolkit. You should look at the Building Partnerships Map Template which can be found on page 24 of the DIY Toolkit, before working through the module. You will find it helpful to have a printout of the template with you while you work through this module.

The Building Partnerships Map is a tool that can be used to facilitate the creation and development of a partnership. Development challenges are often tackled using a partnership approach. Combining your capacities and resources with those of other organisations can help to achieve greater progress towards a common goal or shared vision.

It takes a considerable investment of resources to work in partnership and grow the working relationships required for effective collaboration. The Building Partnerships Map breaks down the development of a partnership into stages, which helps you to anticipate difficulties and challenges as well as think through and plan ways to develop the partnership at each stage.

The Building Partnerships Map tool of the DIY Toolkit should be considered as a guide and can be modified to suit your purposes.

Learning outcomes

After studying this module, you should be able to:

  • describe the Building Partnerships Map and explain when it can be useful and appropriate (SAQ 1)
  • identify key activities involved at each stage of the Building Partnerships Map (SAQ 2)
  • plan a partnership process using the Building Partnerships Map tool (SAQ 3)
  • explain how and when to use the Building Partnerships Map to resolve difficulties and challenges (SAQ 4).

1 The Building Partnerships Map

It is unusual to find an organisation working on a development or social initiative in isolation. Development challenges commonly present such a range of issues that it is usually more beneficial for organisations to work together in partnership. Each partner brings different strengths, such as knowledge of the area and target groups, specialism in a particular field, access to funding, or other support such as being able to build technical capacity.

Activity 1

Timing: Allow around 10-15 minutes for this activity

Can you think back to a partnership you have been involved in or with which you are familiar? This may not necessarily be in relation to a development project: it could be to do with work experience elsewhere – for example, volunteering with a charity – or something else familiar to you or that you have read about.

Make a few notes to describe your experience using the following questions as a guide:

  • How was a decision made on whom to partner with?
  • Which stages were involved in developing the partnership?
  • How did the partnership change over time?
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Discussion

Which stages did you identify in the development of the partnership? You may have noted some critical processes such as how you and your partners discovered and selected each other, how the relationship developed, how planning took place, where resources came from, and how the partnership was managed and revised as lessons were learnt.

1.1 Planning a partnership

The term ‘partnership’ implies equality in terms of control or power; however, this is rarely the case. A ‘partnership’ is a contested concept – it is unusual for it to be straightforward and equal. For example, if one partner has access to greater resources than others, it is likely that the more resourceful partner will be considered, or consider themselves, to be relatively more in control. Challenges or breakdowns within partnerships can have significantly negative impacts on a project or activity.

Figure 1 reinforces how thinking through the stages of a partnership and planning its development has the potential to build a stronger and more effective relationship.

Vertical flow chart diagram with five boxes. Box 1: Think through the phases of the partnership, Box 2: Plan the development of the partnership, Box 3: Build stronger relationships, Box 4: Create a more effective partnership, Box 5: Deliver great results.
Figure 1: Planning partnerships can help deliver better results

The Building Partnerships Map lays out the series of stages that a partnership often involves. You can use it together with partners to plan a partnership, determine the current stage of partnership through which you are progressing, agree where you would like to be, and plan activities that will help you move forward together and build a strong partnership together to achieve your common goals.

The Building Partnerships Map can be used prior to establishing a partnership or, subsequently, at any stage of the partnership.

The development of a partnership is rarely a step-by-step series of events. In practice, partnerships tend to evolve from prior relationships or personal contacts; time is often limited and key people are not always available when needed.

It is important to understand that the Building Partnerships Map should be adapted based on your specific needs and circumstances, and to emphasise certain relevant issues – all partnerships are different and have different needs.

Key points

  • A ‘partnership’ is a contested concept.
  • The Building Partnerships Map lays out a series of stages that a partnership often involves.
  • The Building Partnerships Map should be used flexibly.

1.2 A case study

Case Study 1 below is fictional but based on a real experience.

Case Study 1: Using the Building Partnerships Map as a tool for managing stakeholders

International non-governmental organisation (NGO) Action on Livelihoods (AOL) has been engaged to support the Ministry of Education in Uganda with a programme to develop vocational training in the post-conflict northern part of the country. They are expected to work with local vocational training providers, improving their capacity to deliver market-based training for out-of-school youths in 16 districts. The project anticipates that by 2018, 35,000 youths will benefit from training in vocational skills and improved post-training enterprises and livelihood opportunities as a result of the project. The training must be delivered in a coordinated, sustainable and cost-effective manner. This requires partnering with several stakeholders, including:

  • vocational training institutions within both the public and private sectors
  • an agency to provide skills counselling to youths prior to course selection
  • NGO partners who will carry out additional training of youths in enterprise development
  • programme evaluators who will conduct baseline and midterm research and an impact assessment at the end of the project
  • national government (Ministry of Education)
  • local government in each district
  • local businesses who provide internships and employment
  • local youth councils and special interest groups (e.g. unions for people with disabilities).

Developing this partnership with such a range of stakeholders with different interests and capacities was a real challenge. AOL used the Building Partnerships Map to plan engagement with stakeholders even before they had identified the stakeholders. This helped them to form a clear understanding of each other as well as what was needed from and by each potential partner.

2 Key activities in the stages of the Building Partnerships Map

Looking more closely at the Building Partnerships Map, let’s unwrap each stage a little more and discuss examples of some of the key activities that may take place and factors you might consider at each stage.

2.1 Scoping

At the scoping stage you are trying to understand the problem that you are aiming to address and the associated challenges. Let’s use the example from Case Study 1: the problem here is high youth unemployment in northern Uganda and the effect of this on the community’s livelihoods and on longer-term peace in the region. This stage involves information gathering and consultation with stakeholders including potential resource providers such as donors and trainers. This stage involves developing a vision for the partnership: what are you ultimately trying to achieve in this partnership?

2.2 Identifying

Activity 2

Timing: Allow around 5-10 minutes for this activity

a. 

Measuring partnership impact


b. 

Researching partners


c. 

Approaching partners


d. 

Selecting partners


e. 

Monitoring partnership activities


f. 

Setting partnership goals


g. 

Attracting partners


h. 

Managing partners


The correct answers are b, c, d and g.

Discussion

Identifying potential partners begins with a selection process in which you choose with whom you want to work and then meet with them to share ideas and ascertain their interest in being involved. In the Action on Livelihoods example from Case Study 1, this stage would have included research on all the potential partners. Some of these are already known (such as the Ministry and local government) so the right contact person would just need to be identified, whereas others would require broader research in order to identify the specific businesses, special interest groups, NGOs and programme evaluators that fit the project’s requirements. Each of these partners needs to be contacted and engaged in discussion and negotiation about their interest and potential role and responsibilities within the project.

This stage may involve some kind of assessment of the potential partner organisations (an ‘organisational-capacity assessment’) to understand their strengths and expertise, as well as reading through project and annual reports to understand how they work and get a sense of their organisational challenges as well as their successes. During this stage you may also be securing partners’ involvement by motivating them and encouraging them to work with you.

During the identifying stage, you may find it useful to look at the People and Connections Map which can be found on page 68 of the DIY Toolkit. This tool can help you understand relationships between stakeholders.

2.3 Building

Once partners are on board, it is time to build a working relationship through discussion and agreement on goals, objectives and principles that will underpin the relationship. This may also involve agreeing issues around governance in the partnership; for example, you may ask the following questions:

  • Which key individuals across the different organisations are accountable for the partnership?
  • How will these individuals communicate?
  • When will they meet?
  • How will decisions be taken?
  • In what ways is this group of partners accountable to other stakeholders (e.g. donors and beneficiaries)?

2.4 Planning

After the building stage you will plan the programme of activities in which you and your partner/s will engage. This will probably involve project planning activities such as specifying timeframes, identifying key personnel and their roles, budgeting, and monitoring and evaluation. One partner will lead, taking overall ownership of project management. They should work with other partners to make sure that all the schedules and budgets are synchronised so that the plan is achievable for everyone. It is often helpful to build a communication plan at this stage to make sure that all partners receive and share the right pieces of information at the right time.

2.5 Managing

The partnership is underway and now requires continual management. This may involve day-to-day communication between partners, discussion around plans and activities as well as keeping an eye on the structure and management of the partnership. Any issues that arise may be considered in later stages, particularly during review processes.

2.6 Resourcing

Ideally, partnerships will be developed in response to an identified need and then resourced accordingly – this is the model on which the Building Partnerships Map is based. In this idealised model, the partnership will have been established proactively and, in order to carry out activities, partners must identify and secure funding and other resources, such as equipment, people’s time, etc. (Figure 2). In reality, due to the nature of development interventions, partnerships in the development sector are often formed due to a funding opportunity, perhaps provided by a donor, to carry out certain work. The Building Partnerships Map can, in this case, be used flexibly to consider resourcing in building a partnership.

Diagram of an oval shape with the text ‘Resources’ in the centre and arrows going out to four illustrations: Car, silhouettes of three people, clock, five currency notes with different currency symbols on them
Figure 2: Resources

2.7 Implementing

The implementation process starts once agreements are reached and resources secured. Implementation involves working to an agreed timetable to carry out the activities agreed during the planning stage and to achieve specific deliverables.

2.8 Measuring

Measuring and reporting on impact and effectiveness, often termed ‘monitoring and evaluation’, is an essential part of development partnerships. Outputs (the direct result of activities) and outcomes (the result of the output on the target group) need to be assessed. Is the partnership achieving its goals? Information gained here feeds into the following stages of reviewing and revising.

2.9 Reviewing

Along with measuring, you will need to continually assess the impact of the partnership on partner organisations. Is the partnership fit for purpose? Is the partnership meeting its objectives? Are new partners needed, or have some completed their work? Information from the measuring stage can be analysed during the reviewing stage to help inform decisions and consider what adjustments may be needed to the partnership of the project.

2.10 Revising

You have to be sure that the partnership is fit for purpose. It is inevitable that changes will have to be made, both to the partnership and to the project in which the partnership is engaged. The reviewing and measuring stages lead to revisions, based on what has been learnt.

2.11 Institutionalising

For partnerships that are set to continue, you will need to put in place structures and mechanisms to ensure long-term commitment and continuity. For example, you could document your shared vision or long-term plans.

2.12 Sustaining or terminating

Some partnerships last for many years while others come to an end because the shared work is complete or the partnership did not meet expectations. This stage is included as a reminder that partnerships may be collaboratively built in a way that either makes them sustainable or brings them to a close.

Activity 3

Timing: Allow around 10 minutes for this activity

Below is a list of instructions – each one describes the focus of a specific stage of the Building Partnerships Map. Try to select the correct stage for each one.

a. 

Sustaining


b. 

Identifying


c. 

Implementing


The correct answer is a.

a. 

Managing


b. 

Resourcing


c. 

Identifying


The correct answer is b.

a. 

Implementing


b. 

Sustaining


c. 

Reviewing


The correct answer is a.

a. 

Planning


b. 

Reviewing


c. 

Managing


The correct answer is c.

a. 

Measuring


b. 

Identifying


c. 

Building


The correct answer is c.

a. 

Measuring


b. 

Identifying


c. 

Resourcing


The correct answer is b.

a. 

Measuring


b. 

Planning


c. 

Resourcing


The correct answer is b.

a. 

Scoping


b. 

Identifying


c. 

Reviewing


The correct answer is a.

a. 

Reviewing


b. 

Institutionalising


c. 

Sustaining


The correct answer is b.

a. 

Terminating


b. 

Reviewing


c. 

Managing


The correct answer is a.

a. 

Measuring


b. 

Reviewing


c. 

Revising


The correct answer is a.

a. 

Planning


b. 

Measuring


c. 

Reviewing


The correct answer is c.

a. 

Revising


b. 

Implementing


c. 

Terminating


The correct answer is a.

Activity 4

Timing: Allow around 5 minutes for this activity

a. 

Scoping


b. 

Identifying


c. 

Building


d. 

Reviewing


e. 

Institutionalising


The correct answer is c.

Discussion

A loose agreement, such as a teaming agreement or memorandum of understanding, may often be agreed and signed at the ‘building’ stage. By comparison, the signing of a formal contract would require that resources were already in place.

3 Planning a partnership

At this point you should be able to see that the Building Partnerships Map tool is useful for developing a partnership. Perhaps you might find it useful as a checklist, or to prompt discussions. What is particularly good about this tool is that it identifies stages and prompts thought and action on what may need to occur at each stage.

You may also recognise that partnerships rarely follow a straight path; this tool should therefore be used flexibly. It might be problematic to think that you cannot progress to a particular stage because you have not completed a previous stage. This rigid thinking can frustrate some stakeholders. The reality of partnerships is that these processes need to be somewhat iterative rather than entirely prescribed (Figure 3).

Cartoon of man standing in front of a display board which has a diagram of a box with the figure 1 in it and then an arrow to a box with the figure2. The man is looking at three seated people, one who has his hand up with speech bubble above him “Could you tell us again how we get to step 2”
Figure 3: The stages of a partnership should not be too prescriptive!

Activity 5

Timing: Allow around 10-15 minutes for this activity
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4 Using the Map to resolve difficulties and challenges

There are many reasons why partnerships experience difficulties or face challenges. So, can the Building Partnerships Map be used to try to address difficulties and challenges and find a way to move forward?

The Map has considerable utility in this respect, mainly because using a recognised development practice tool enables personal views and opinions to be set aside, allowing a clearer, more objective focus on the issues to be developed.

By applying the tool with partners and relating (or perhaps adjusting) the stage to the evolution of your own partnership, you may be able to bring some openness to the discussion, prompt creative thinking and design some key activities that can help overcome the difficulties.

Using the Building Partnerships Map to resolve difficulties and challenges generally involves identifying, together with partners, to which stage of the map the difficulty or challenge relates. However, in order to do this, it is important to both understand and define the difficulty or challenge that you face. Stakeholders are likely to have different perceptions of challenges and their causes, so an important step is to work through the issues and agree on the problem. Having done that, you may then be able to relate the challenge to the Map and use the tool to discuss and agree possible solutions.

Case Study 2: Using the Building Partnerships Map to resolve partnership challenges

Alexis once worked for a health-focused NGO based in Vietnam. The NGO was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to support the provision of HIV/AIDS counselling, testing, care and treatment. Reflecting on the Building Partnerships Map, Alexis says:

Our role was to build the capacity of local state-run health facilities. We hired and trained specialist staff to work closely with the clinic’s own staff.

One difficulty that arose was that our staff were not trusted as team members when they worked in the clinic, and the head of the clinic felt undermined by their presence and role in training her staff.

By working through the Building Partnerships Map with our partner we agreed that the planning stage had not been adequate, because the terms of reference of our own staff had not been made clear and had not been shared with the clinic’s management team. Further, reporting lines had not been clarified. By making appropriate adjustments we were able to build trust and motivate our partners to engage with us more productively.

Activity 6

Timing: Allow around 10 minutes for this activity

Can you think through a challenge you have faced in a partnership in which you have been involved? In the text box below, write some notes on how you could have used the Building Partnerships Map to engage with your partners to resolve the challenge.

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Discussion

In a development programming context it can be common for partnerships to develop in response to external circumstances, somewhat reactively. Hindsight is a great thing, but often you can recognise gaps in the earlier planning or relationship building stages, and addressing these gaps could have avoided later challenges.

There is no right or wrong answer but it is likely you would have found the need to adapt the Building Partnerships Map tool to suit your purpose. Perhaps you would undertake some kind of participatory approach, analysing the stages of your partnership together with partners and identifying where improvements could be retrospectively made.

For example, by using the Building Partnerships Map you could work towards a point with partners to encourage understanding that securing financial resources depends, to some extent, on the success of other stages, such as building a shared vision, planning an initiative and establishing effective partnership-management systems. Where these foundations were not built beforehand, the partnership could be liable to fail, no matter what resources are made available.

Summary

This module has shown you how to use the Building Partnerships Map.

A partnership approach can often be effective in tackling development challenges. The Building Partnerships Map is a tool that you can adapt to suit your purposes, allowing you to break down the development of a partnership into stages. By using the tool you can anticipate difficulties and challenges and effectively plan your partnership.

Taking time to plan partnerships can be very effective in establishing strong foundations and relationships, which in turn can produce greater results from the partnership.

Self-assessment questions

SAQ 1

Which stage comes next? Identify the stage that follows each of the stages below by dropping it next to the relevant one.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Planning

  2. Revising

  3. Identifying

  4. Building

  5. Reviewing

  6. Sustaining or terminating

  • a.Scoping

  • b.Institutionalising

  • c.Identifying

  • d.Building

  • e.Reviewing

  • f.Measuring

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = d
  • 2 = e
  • 3 = a
  • 4 = c
  • 5 = f
  • 6 = b

SAQ 2

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

b. 

Resourcing is the sixth stage of the Building Partnerships Map but the map should be used in a dynamic rather than fixed way.


a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

b. 

Reviewing the partnership should lead to revisions to the partnership, rather than the reverse.


a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

SAQ 3

Can you think of ways to use the Building Partnerships Map collaboratively during the planning of a partnership?

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Discussion

There are many ways to be creative with this tool. Did you identify anything similar to the suggestions below?

  • You could make some small posters with a stage written on each and ask your participants to work in groups to try to identify the likely order of the stages.
  • You could work with partners in small groups to identify suggested activities under each stage.
  • You could use the tool to agree action points and milestones for the partnership to achieve, perhaps agreeing individuals responsible for overseeing each action point and accountability mechanisms, such as reporting back on action points within a given time frame.

SAQ 4

Stakeholders working in partnership on a joint project express the following difficulties. Can you identify to which stage/s the difficulties relate?

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End of Module Quiz

Congratulations, you have now reached the end of this module! We hope that you have enjoyed it, and have learned useful skills.

End of Module Quiz

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References and acknowledgements

Inspired by: Tennyson R. (2003) 12 Phases in the Partnering Process, p4. In: The Partnering Toolbook.

This Module should be cited as follows:

DIY Learn (2016) Building Partnerships Map, Copyright ©The Open University and Nesta

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