It is both a joy and a challenge to build, sustain, and grow healthy partnerships. At Partners Worldwide, we partner with locally-led organizations to support business growth and job creation in communities facing high unemployment and poverty.
As our Partnership Manager for the Philippines, I work with these partner organizations in communities throughout the country. And in a nation of over 7,000 far-flung islands, this is not always an easy task! But geographic distance is not the only challenge. The reality is that our partners are unique, continually changing organizations. We can’t treat them as homogenous entities.
Have you ever considered that the word organization is so akin to the word “organism,” which means a living thing, a creature, a being?
Organizations are living, breathing entities because they are made up of people. And building and sustaining strong relationships with people is never easy—let alone an organization made up of many people. But glory to God! He gave us His word to guide us in this, and He gave us the example of His Son to imitate.
In reflecting on partnership, I find the word of Paul in Ephesians 4:2-3 to be both instructive and encouraging:
“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”
In the Message translation of the Bible, this verse reads:
“And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.”
This verse points to the reality that it takes every effort to build life-giving partnerships. As I work to cultivate partnerships in the Philippines, I keep this verse and the four virtues it highlights in mind:
Partnerships should be approached with a posture of humility and gentleness. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, especially when there are power dynamics at play. Even in faith-based partnerships, it is not uncommon to see the “funding” partners—who are often from North America—dictate the strategy and plans of the “receiving” or “implementing” partners.
But when we approach our partnership with a spirit of humility, our partners are more likely to feel valued as equals.
The partnership journey is not a sprint. Building authentic partnerships, just like building any other type of relationship, takes time. We must get to know each other in order to efficiently and effectively work together.
Additionally, our goal at Partners Worldwide is to see the end of global poverty. The enormity of this task cannot be understated. We are in this work for the long haul and must cultivate patience if we hope to endure.
Partnerships are not only strengthened by the life-changing virtues of humility and patience but also through diligence. Nurturing partnerships over time requires consistency and fortitude.
At Partners Worldwide, we must practice discipline as we collaborate on our partnership agreement and annual partnership plans. One vital aspect of this consistency is in regards to communication—being disciplined in following through on our agreed-upon activities and plans and staying in touch on a regular basis.
The reality of any long-term partnership is that challenges will arise. There will be opposing perspectives, miscommunications, and the disappointment of unmet expectations. These circumstances can cause a partnership to fold, or they can be an opportunity for it to go deeper.
It is a beautiful thing to commit to one another and the meaningful work you’re collaborating on—having a mutual understanding that you will address issues swiftly and practice forgiveness when needed. In the end, it makes the partnership firmer and stronger than it was before.
Like any relationship, our partnerships can be nurtured, strengthened, sustained and grown over time—ultimately enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of our shared work. Through practicing humility, patience, diligence, and forgiveness, we can cultivate authentic partnerships that are rooted in love and can drive change in the world.