The lever that stands out for me, given my practical interest in partnership and collaboration, is the 'Threshold Lever'. For a collaboration to develop, achieve its potential and fulfil its goals it needs to be able to encourage, create, identify and build upon catalytic or transformational moments that will help it push through a threshold, like gradually breaking through an increasingly taut net, towards the next phase of its development.
These catalytic, transformational moments can be planned and strategic, like the co-ordinated delivery of a high profile, short, sharp and impactful action (for example significantly improving the environment of a specific neighbourhood over a short space of time). Or they can be opportunistic and tactical, dealing with situations that crop up within a collaboration's area of interest and activity (for example addressing a sudden and unexpected increase in social and/or health issues and problems).
These catalysts, either strategic or tactical, help a collaboration do the following: focus its resources and activity; demonstrate its usefulness; attract additional partners, expertise, resources and support (all of which are key outcomes that help a partnership push through the threshold towards its next level of activity, influence and development).
In fact, these catalytic moments are very diverse and plentiful. The trick is to plan for and/or take advantage of them. When planning or reviewing your approach to collaboration make sure you consider the following questions:
- What do you consider to be the critical stages of your collaboration's development? What form do you think they will take and when do you think they will happen? What are you going to do to ensure you handle them effectively? (For example, will you need to ensure you attain a specific amount and quality of partners/volunteers? Will you need a certain amount of money and resources? Will you need to achieve local or national recognition and gain the support of certain key players? Will you need to achieve specific goals and outcomes? By when will all these things need to be achieved?)
- How will you ensure that you quickly respond to and effectively deal with situations and opportunities that present themselves as the collaboration goes about its work? How can you do this in a way that is helpful to not only the collaboration and its development but also those it is seeking to help? (For example, how will you scan your environment for possible situations and opportunities? Who will do this? How will you engage with the people and populations affected? How will you ensure that the collaboration is perceived as helpful and supportive rather than opportunistic and self serving?)
For more about collaboration and partnership go to: Sleeping-with-the-Enemy-Achieving-Collaborative-Success-2nd-Edition.