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Monday 2 March 2015

Identify partial partners

Partial potential partners are individuals, groups, businesses and other organisations that are not likely to become fully involved in a collaboration. This could be because they are not sufficiently engaged with or interested in a collaboration's work or because, for whatever reason, a collaboration prefers to keep them at arm's length or parked safely out of harm's way. Perhaps their histories suggest they could cause problems if too closely involved in things, or perhaps their added value is best saved for special initiatives or times of particular need (much like a star football player who is only used for important matches or a specialist reserve player or 'super-sub.' who is only used for crucial moments in a game).

Whatever the reason, a partial partner's value is such that they are certainly considered worth keeping in the loop, in the network of the collaboration's potentially useful contacts, but not within the hub of the collaboration's ongoing and key partners:
  • A collaboration seeking to develop the role of social enterprise in enhancing the well-being of people living in deprived areas worked hard at keeping a wide variety of regional and central government agencies appraised of its activities, occasionally inviting them to take a closer look and perhaps play some part. This made it easier for the collaboration to ask for additional support from government sources as and when needed. Given the occasional, more casual nature of its relationships with various government agencies the collaboration often gained additional support in the form of greater recognition and influence for its work, rather than in the form of financial or other tangible resources. This support, however, helped it build a strong mainstream presence within organisational, institutional and societal thinking and practice. Also, government agencies, etc., were often able to point towards people and organisations that, with the right words in the right ears, could be persuaded to offer more practical support.
  • High profile individuals, such as royalty, sports people, actors, celebrities and well-known business leaders, etc., are often courted as partial partners. Their recognition value, reputations and credibility play a significant role in adding memorability and weight to a collaborative project's message, helping it gain timely additional support and resources for its work. The UN and many well-known charities use this approach.                    

Some individuals and groups are not high profile or influential but they can offer bridges towards those that are. This makes them potentially valuable partial partners that can be called upon to play their brokering/introducing role as and when their contacts are needed:
  • An initiative focused upon integrating health and social services enhanced its chances of success by seeking out the most active members of its regional 'Local Involvement Network', encouraging them to take an interest in its work and requesting introductions to some of their contacts. Those participating in Local Involvement Networks (which were initiated by the Department of Health to give local people a greater say in the workings of their health and social services) are low profile but enthusiastic people who, because of their involvement in the network, have access to a great many contacts across all sectors involved in delivering health and social services within a region.       

These  types of contacts and networks, because of their low profile, are not easily  identifiable (unlike celebrities or government departments) and they are usually discovered during face-to-face informal gatherings or outreach events that a collaborative initiative arranges for this and other purposes. This is one reason why encouraging and achieving a degree of informality between partners, potential partners and other stakeholders is a consistent trait of effective collaborations.

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