Guest Blog: Amplifying Your Partnership Brokering Skills

JSD+-Sola-150x150It’s only two months until Partnership Brokers Training Level One will be offered in Calgary and Western Canada for the first time. This training is increasingly important as society’s problems and challenges become more complex and interconnected. I truly believe that multi-sector partnerships are the only way forward.

This past June, I had the privilege of attending Level Two Partnership Brokers Training. This five-day residential course was held at the Trigonos Centre in Northern Wales in the heart of Snowdon National Park. The setting was spectacular, and the learning extraordinary. It is my pleasure to share with you highlights of the knowledge learned and insights gleaned from that memorable week.

1. Partnership Brokering is a growing global movement

Partnership Brokering is a rapidly growing global movement. Twenty people participated in the Level One and Level Two training, representing the diversity of potential partners- from all sectors! Businesses such as Unilever Britain, Shell Nigeria, GoldCorp Ghana, Accenture Malaysia, and Canada’s Agrifarm; nonprofit leaders from the YMCA, WorldVision, the International Institute for Local Development, and Alberta EcoTrust; and government officials from Holland, Switzerland and Britain all joined in.

It was a unique and assorted mix that led to deep discussions, different perspectives and many new friendships. But most importantly it highlighted the increasing role of partnerships as more and more business, civil society and government initiatives are being launched with partnership and collaboration at their heart.

2. There are 3 core partnership principles vital to the success of Partnership Brokering
The Partnership Brokers Association (PBA) defines partnerships as “ongoing working relationship where risks and benefits are shared.” In practical terms this means every partner is involved in:

  • Co-creating projects & programs
  • Committing tangible resource contributions
  • Ensuring mutual accountability

PBA has identified three core principles vital to the partnership building process: equity, transparency and mutual benefit. These principles must be understood and agreed upon by all partners. They are the foundation upon which the partnership is built; and the ‘cement’ that holds it together. Why?

Equity because it leads to respect
How do you build equity in a relationship where there are wide divergences in power, resources and influence? Equity is not the same as ‘equality’. Equity here means an equal right to be at the table and a validation of those contributions that are not measurable simply in terms of cash value or public profile.

Transparency because it leads to trust
Openness and honesty in working relationships are the pre-conditions of trust – an essential ingredient for the success of any partnership. Only with transparency can a partnership be truly accountable to each of its partners, donors and other stakeholders.

Mutual benefit because it leads to sustainability
Finally, if all partners are expected to contribute to the partnership they should also be entitled to benefit from the partnership. A healthy partnership works towards achieving specific benefits for each partner, often over and above the common benefits to all partners. Only in this way will the partnership ensure the continuing commitment of partners and its sustainability.

3. Partnership brokering requires keys skills and competencies – all that can be learned and developed
An effective partnership is not just about principles; it’s about a process – one that can be complex and challenging. Success requires a particular skill set and knowledge of partnering processes. With these key skills, the right approach and positive aptitude, partnerships can achieve real impact.

Core partnering skills required:
• Interest-based negotiation: Negotiating the partnership based on an understanding of each partner’s underlying drivers, and priorities;
• Brokering & facilitation: Bringing people together and managing the decision-making process.
• Active listening and plain speaking: Being able to engage and articulate ideas and decisions appropriately

Effective partnering requires individuals who live the power of AND:
• Engaged AND committed
• Objective AND reflective
• Open to learn from experience AND change direction as necessary

Brokers aptitudes facilitate successful relationships
Brokers are the vital link and are most successful when they help the partners to:
• Take time to build strong working relationships
• Foster genuine concern for each other’s underlying interests
• Ensure there is more listening than talking
• Encourage good communication skills at all levels
• Help partners deal with difficulties rather than ignoring them
• Balance flexibility with a rigorous approach
• Focus on practical and sustainable results

Level One Partnership Broker Training
Combining the resources, ingenuity and sweat equity of business, government, nonprofits and citizens is hard work. And to build, manage and scale partnerships requires sophisticated skills and expertise to navigate the delicate balancing act of common and organizational goals.

The Level Two PBT course has helped better equip me to develop and deliver Level One partnership brokering training. The Level One training is an intensive learning opportunity for conveners and catalysts of collective impact partnerships. This course guides participants through a practical framework for partnership brokering and explores the vital role Partnership Brokers can play in the effective scoping, design and process management of partnerships.

Join us as Partnership Brokers Association co-founder Ros Tennyson and I facilitate Level One training in Calgary. Click here for more details.

Jocelyne Daw, Founder and CEO of JS Daw & Associates