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Friday 27 February 2015

Identify false-negative partners

False-negative potential partners are individuals, groups, businesses and other organisations that, because of their reputations, history and tradition, roles and responsibilities, positioning within society, previously stated views and aims, etc., can be perceived as unlikely partnership candidates. When, however, we find out more about them, uncovering their actual rather than assumed values and ways of operating, their true potential to become valuable partners reveals itself.

Large and traditional institutions, such as government departments, can at first seem daunting and unlikely partnership candidates for smaller organisations working within the social and voluntary sectors, as can the police and other regulatory and enforcement authorities. Big business, positioned within its gleaming and apparently self-interested towers of commerce, can also, for some, seem equally unpromising partnership material.

Local tightly knit ethnic and/or religious groups and other special interest and community groups, which often exist semi-formally and are firmly rooted within the fabric of their cultures and environments, can seem equally unpromising as partners for government departments, regulatory authorities and big business.

But these initial negative impressions can often prove false:
  • An employment and training initiative did not seek to engage with a local community group assuming, because of the group's reputation and past behaviour, that it would not be interested in becoming involved. When forced to think again because of an inability to engage productively with local people, the initiative found its overtures welcomed and the group keen to become a partner. The initiative began to thrive.
  • A social enterprise focused upon supporting and encouraging people to move out of the informal economy into the formal taxpaying economy found one of its greatest allies from within Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. Looked at from afar this makes perfect sense. However, given HMRC's much publicised use of the law and tough financial penalties to discourage non-compliance with tax regulations, the social enterprise and the people it was working with may not have initially perceived the government department as a likely or even attractive partner in the development of a supportive and engaging strategy for creating formal employment opportunities.
  • Global pharmaceutical and telecommunication companies are lead partners in collaborative initiatives which are providing much needed health services to remote and inaccessible areas of Africa. The much publicised profit motive of these companies dwindles somewhat in its significance when the time is taken to uncover the real rather than apparent nature of their motivations, interests and activities.
  • A half-way house seeking to rehabilitate young offenders and stop them re-offending was able to enhance its results through an ongoing partnership with local police, who adopted a supportive, informal and engaging role rather than the perhaps more expected formal monitoring and enforcing role.                        

False-negatives wear a mask of partly their own and partly others' making. When the time is taken to look under the mask their true potential as partners is revealed.

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