Partnering and collaboration

Achieving lasting change can be complex and requires that everyone works together. For many organisations, the delivery of a new or innovative activity may require working collaboratively with other organisations. Or you may feel you have a greater chance of success if you work with others.

For this reason, you may wish to consider creating a partnership or alliance to drive new and more effective approaches to achieving outcomes for people with disability.

Why partner or collaborate?

Working with another organisation can help you:

  • Increase your impact – by expanding the activities you are already delivering, sustaining your existing activities or improving the quality of the activities you are delivering.
  • Address a complex issue – many issues that organisations are trying to address are complex or entrenched. Partnering increases the skills and expertise your team has to allow you to address these issues.
  • Make your money go further – partnering may allow you to reach more people over a bigger area, support you to run your organisation or make the most of the assets you have available.

Types of partnership and collaboration

There are several different types of partnerships and collaborations that may enable you to achieve outcomes for people with disability.

There is no one ‘best’ type of partnership or collaboration. You need to carefully consider which type of alliance will help you achieve your overall goals. Generally there are four types of strategic alliance, with varying degrees of formality.

Collaboration (less integrated)

  • Organisations may share information, publicise support, or partner on an initiative for a limited time or a specific issue
  • Governance remains separate
  • Informal partnership

Integrated support functions

  • Organisations share operational functions (e.g. IT, HR, finance) then each deliver on separate, but aligned goals
  • Governance remains separate
  • May create new legal entity to administer common services or manage programs (e.g. Joint Venture, Parent Subsidiary) partnership or Management Service org)

Integrated service delivery

  • Organisations maintain separate operations but integrate their service delivery to achieve better outcomes
  • Governance remains separate
  • May create new legal entity to administer common services or manage programs (e.g. Joint Venture, Parent Subsidiary) partnership or Management Service org)

Merger (more integrated)

  • Organisations merge their legal structure, operations and service delivery to achieve one goal
  • Governance combined or legally linked
  • No agreement needed

Is partnering the right option for me?

Before you start the process of seeking out potential partners, you might want to first determine whether or not this is the right approach for your organisation. You can do this by asking yourself questions such as:

  • Can I create greater impact with a partnership?
  • What will happen if I don’t partner?
  • Is someone else already doing something similar to me?
  • Is there a commitment from partner organisations to support the partnership?
  • What strategies/local priorities will this partnership support?

It may be useful to ensure that such discussions involve all the relevant stakeholders and that there is a clear commitment from senior leadership before you move forward.

How do I get started?

Once you are comfortable that a partnership or collaboration is the right decision for your organisation, the next step is to design what it might look like. You can do this by considering questions such as:

  • Who are the potential organisations with whom you would like to work?
  • What would be the goals and objectives of the partnership or collaboration? What would it set out to do? And how could people with disability benefit from the partnership?
  • Why would another organisation want to partner or collaborate with you? What are the benefits and opportunities for them? How would this approach help achieve the strategies / focus of each organisation?
  • How would the partnership work in principle? Who would be responsible for doing what, and how would each organisation be held accountable for their role?
  • When will key agreements be made? Partners should be brought into the discussions as early on as possible to ensure all decisions regarding the structure and function of the partnerships are agreed upon.
  • What would be the risks of entering into a partnership? How could they be mitigated?
  • Are there any restrictions to who our organisation can partner with or how the partnership is structured? If there are, will changes be necessary at a constitutional or board level?

What sort of things should I consider to maintain my partnership?

There is no comprehensive list of all of the key points that have to be taken into consideration as you establish and move your partnership forward. This is not exhaustive but you may wish to consider your:

  • Strategy: Organisations partnering or collaborating with each other might find it useful to develop a shared strategy for work that they will be delivering together. This will help ensure everyone agrees on the goals and objectives. This could also help define the specific activities to be delivered, key milestones and delivery dates, and could guide the focus of the partnership.
  • Ongoing communication: How will you ensure that everyone is aware of the work each partner is delivering? Having clear channels for communication between all the key players could allow for improved transparency and information sharing. This might include the reporting that is to be delivered, its frequency and information to be covered.
  • Governance: Having clear structures and processes in place could help guide the focus and delivery of the work. This may involve identifying who has responsibility for oversight from the beginning, who reports to who, and through what means.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: Putting in place a shared measurement framework from the outset  may help ensure all partners agree regarding the main changes they want to see and will help keep them focused on impact.