Fit for Partnerships: Creating a Partnership Friendly Organisation Part 2: A Partnership Friendly Culture

The last blog focused on the first four fit for partnerships factors. Knowing that the four factors contribute to organisational culture, here we put a spotlight on what type of organisational culture supports partnership work.Screen Shot 2017-07-07 at 11.23.38 AMA partnership friendly culture has and fosters the following characteristics:

  • A collaborative mindset and collaborative thinking: what Kania, Hanleybrown and Splansky Juster, 2014[1] describe as “collective seeing, learning, and doing.” This involves asking questions like “Who is doing something about this?“Who else needs to be involved in this?”How do we involve them or work together?” when planning initiatives big or small. It is about thinking “we” and “us” and not “me”.
  • Then being able to:
    • Include others and cooperate with them;
    • Participate in collective sense making, that is, draw on our different experience, perspectives, knowledge and skills to make sense of what is happening, what is required to work out what to do and to get things done;
    • Develop and use our collective knowledge and skills to exercise shared responsibility;
    • Do together: co-design, co-plan, and ‘co-do’;
    • Take joint action while maintaining both a sense of our interdependence – our dependence or reliance on each other, and our own unique identity.
  • A way of working that is characterised by:
    • Being able to deal with complexity (some may say tolerate a level of ‘messiness’) brought about by additional stakeholders, and accountability to those stakeholders, working on an expanded and shared set of outcomes and measures, and working across organisational and sector boundaries, different programs, models of practice and organisational cultures, while at the same time being guided by the organisation’s purpose, vision, values, meeting funding requirements and managing risks.
    • Flexibility and creativity that to deal with all of the above and to respond to opportunities. A strong partnerships framework will support this.
    • An ability to make decisions with others, so shared decision-making.
  • Being prepared to change, do something new or in a different way, innovate and even be changed. Working in partnership opens us to influencing and being influenced by others and to learning and creating together; this means being changed, and knowing what we need to aspects of our way of working we need to keep ad what we need to change.
  • Reflective practice including learning from and showcasing partnership initiatives, including through a community of practice.
  • A collaborative leadership approach and style throughout the organisation.

A Partnership Friendly Organisation Idea: Reflective Practice

The organisation has established a community of practice where staff from different programs/units share their examples of partnership work, reflect on their practice and develop action learning projects to enhance their partnerships. Partner agency team members are invited to participate. Stories illustrating positive partnership outcomes and experiences and lessons learned are shared across the organisation.

A version of this paper was presented at the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA) conference in August 2016.

Look out for the next blog on: Collaborative Leadership

[1] Kania, J., Hanleybrown, F. & Splansky Juster, J. (2014). Essential Mindset Shifts for Collective Impact. Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall, 2014, 1-10.

Grace Leotta is an organisational, community development and training consultant. She supports organisations and networks establish, manage and review partnerships and collaborative efforts, and provides training on various aspects of partnership.