How to have your Private Sector – Community Partner collaborations be more effective in 2013

By Heather Shapter and Leslie Bennett

In the world of Private Sector – Community Partner collaborations, there comes great promise and great challenge. The underpinning of the challenge lies in the different cultures found in corporations versus that of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Research indicates that there is still a huge amount of distrust among the private, public and NGO sectors. The Prince of Wales Business Leadership Forum found that businesses often:

1) expect NGOs to provide value in specific business terms without social benefit (e.g. cost savings);
2) feel that NGOs are not very effective in addressing problems (e.g., education, HIV/AIDS);
3) see NGOs as fostering dependency;
4) view NGOs as highly political.

On the other hand, NGOs often:
1) see corporations as the problem and distrust their motives;
2) view them only as cheque writers;
3) expect businesses to help further their social missions without any business benefits. As a result, there has been little interest or trust on either side.

Part of what’s missing in these partnerships is trust. Here are three elements to have your private sector – NGO partnerships be more effective in 2013.

1. Finding the Values of Others:
Take the time up front – once the project team is determined and before you begin the project – and identify the joint team’s core values. To get there, individuals need to know their own core values first.

Problem:
Most people don’t know their core values, and if asked, can’t tell you what they are. Yet a person’s core values are as unique to them as their fingerprint. These core values are one of the most vital keys to producing high performing, collaborative cultures.

You can use the following exercise to discover your own core values and the core values of others:

  • Wait for a moment when you can get to know the person better without it seeming strange.
  • When it’s appropriate, take something the person says, such as “I’m having a rotten day.”
  • Ask an open-ended question that repeats the word. In the example, “What’s going on with your day?”
  • Keep asking open-ended questions until the speaker has identified something that is important to them. In this example, it might be that they are not being effective at work. Then you can ask “Why is being effective important to you?”
  • Keep asking why the main concept is important to that person until they can’t come up with any more reasons why it is important to them. They would probably say something like, “it just is”, and you can hear their      emotional connection to it.

Success indicator:
If you say “so if you were offered a job, with double your salary and every perk you can imagine, but you would never experience this value, and neither would anyone else, would you take it?” Most people, after laughing about the salary, will say, “no.”
Source: CultureSync 2012

Next you get everybody together and determine which individual core values overlap or resonate with each other. Come up with three or four shared values from which to make decisions in the partnership.

2. Developing a Common Outcome
This outcome requires the expertise and capacity of BOTH organizations.

A second tool that builds trust and accountability in partnerships is a collaborative strategy that lays out (in 90 day increments) what outcomes both parties want to produce; what assets and resources they both have and what consistent actions each will take to accomplish the outcomes.

Check out our blog on how to use this tool here:

3. Developing the Partnership’s Rules Of Engagement
The third tool centres around creating the Agreements for Engagement.

1) Create ground rules for the group including how meetings are run.
2) Determine what you are going to do if people are not following the rules of engagement, e.g. someone is late; people are not showing up and not communicating that they won’t be there; deadlines are getting missed; work is incomplete etc.

The key to having effective rules of engagement are not so much in the rules themselves, but more in how we relate to others. Breaking a rule of engagement is an opportunity to support a team member. It is not about blame or criticism. Having shared values and a common outcome are important building blocks to this constructive environment of support and high levels of collaborative performance.

  • What elements work for your effective public and private partnership?
  • What elements do not work well for effective public and private partnerships?

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