When interacting with the people, communities and others crucial to or affected by a partnership's work seek to create ever-increasing triangles of trust and influence.
When speaking with fellow collaborators make sure you ask them to name one person or organisation they feel would be interested in the collaboration's work and, if needed, be able to make a valuable contribution. Then, if this person or organisation is introduced to the collaboration, or even just made aware of and updated about the collaboration's work, an additional acquaintance will be created which can be developed into an advantageous relationship as and when required.
Building these ever increasing triangles of trust and influence will help embed the collaboration's work within its environment and increase its influence and ability to get things done. It will also, very importantly, gradually increase the diversity of the people and organisations working with the collaboration. This will significantly increase the perspectives, ideas and resources which can influence the collaboration's direction and approach and enhance the effectiveness of its activities.
Here are some examples of organisations and institutions that build ever-increasing triangles of trust and influence:
Japanese companies create triangular relationships of trust and influence by partnering with not only a main senior supplier for a product or service but also a junior one. This enables them to enrich, grow and add resilience to their networks and ensure they are able to meet not only current challenges but also future and as yet unknown ones.
The British Council consistently employs a strategy of creating ever-increasing triangles of trust and influence. Whatever the focus of their work, and whatever the country, they work hard at creating new relationship triangles between themselves, their original national and regional partners and those their network of partners introduce or suggest to them. A particularly noteworthy example is a 'Justice for All' programme in Uganda, where the British Council's initial national and regional authority partners introduced the British Council to the large number of influential traditional tribal rulers. This created triangles of influence and trust between the Council, the Nigerian authorities and traditional tribes. It was these traditional tribal leaders that most probably played a lead role in introducing the British Council to the semi-formal voluntary police forces and vigilante groups operating at local levels. This created yet another triangle of influence and trust between the British Council, the tribal leaders and the self-appointed semi-formal police and vigilante groups. For a project focused upon creating an environment where 'justice for all' can be a reality, this type of triangular relationship is of immense value.
Health and social service initiatives are increasingly seeking to create triangular relationships between health services, social services and, crucially, the people and communities using the services.
The emerging multi-regional GP super practices, such as the Modality Partnership in Birmingham, are able to make connections across boundaries and introduce people and organisations with mutual and complementary health and social interests and needs. This creates new and valuable triangles of trust and influence between those who might otherwise have been unaware of each other and the potential help and support so near at hand.
Local authorities build triangular relationships by not only creating lists of potential partners and collaborators but also asking those on the lists for additional people and organisations which could be included.
Some collaborative initiatives use their evaluation methods to create triangular relationships of trust and influence. They create insider/outsider evaluation teams which pair an existing 'inside' partner with a new external 'outside' person or organisation dealing with similar issues and involved in similar activities. This not only brings new perspectives and fresh insights to the evaluation of the collaborative initiative's work but also adds a new relationship to the collaborative network: it creates a new triangle of trust and influence between a key partner, a new and potentially useful contact and the collaborative initiative itself.