Partnerships are the heart of Partners Worldwide. It’s in our name. Around the world, we partner with locally-rooted organizations to support business growth and job creation so that people may be equipped to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty, for good.
But what makes a good partnership? What elements are crucial for success, for creating lasting change?
1. A common vision
Partnerships will never work without all parties sharing a common vision.
Over the years, I’ve seen partnerships where the Business Affiliate (BA) wants to do one thing and the Local Community Institution (LCI) wants to do another. It’s like trying to steer a boat when people are paddling in different directions: you won’t get very far.
2. Active listening
Getting to that point where you can align with your partners takes a lot of active listening. It takes intentionality. It takes learning where the other is coming from and where they are looking to go.
Often, we are quick to make assumptions about people we are partnered with. Based on our limited knowledge, we might assume that the LCI needs a training program, or more money, or any number of things. But before leaping to action, before making these assumptions about what someone may or may not need, we need to sit down with one another and listen.
Listening requires humility, a choice to actively put someone else first. It requires asking good questions. And, at the end of the day, it requires reflection. Based on what you’ve heard, is this a good fit? Are your goals aligned?
In a successful partnership, everyone holds each other accountable. Everyone feels like they are bringing something to the table. And everyone feels like their voice is being heard.
In short, a partnership is a team of equals. Neither money, success, talent, nor background should make one partner more powerful than the other. Each partner, whether an LCI or a BA, joins the table to work together shoulder by shoulder and should recognize that there is something they can learn from their partner.
4. Trust and transparency
Creating an equal partnership requires trust and transparency from both parties. Building transparency can be challenging when LCI leaders and BAs speak different languages or live in different time zones. But even in the easiest cases, it takes effort to build lasting trust.
Taking the time to build trust offers the opportunity of walking alongside someone, sharing advice and support, mourning losses, and celebrating victories.
Finally, a successful partnership takes commitment to each other and to your common cause. A partnership is a long-term relationship, one that requires a lot of effort to maintain. But with hard work, prayer, and the support of each other, you can accomplish something truly amazing.