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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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.

3 Planning a partnership