You are here

Partnership Building Pitfalls and Tips

True partnerships are essential to the success of sector work, but there are challenges that must be addressed to achieve success. There are some common mistakes that can interfere with the development of a successful initiative. Intermediaries, watch out for these early- and mid-course roadblocks:

  • Launching a competing initiative when another group already has begun one in the same region and industry sector;
  • Fighting to retain the role of convener when another group has already established this role with the industry, rather than finding and staffing a supportive role;
  • Charting the course of the initiative, as opposed to facilitating and coordinating the partnership’s decisions and actions;
  • Understaffing the sector initiative and being unable to deliver promised outcomes;
  • Assuming knowledge of the needs of industry, and designing programs without a deep connection to employers in the industry;
  • Refusing to use leverage or eligibility to bring new resources into the partnership;
  • Failing to build relationships with organizations targeting potential labor pools, or miscalculating the needs of workers in the area; and
  • Being unwilling or unable to adapt to changes in the industry and sustaining old programming that not longer fits industry needs.

Every collaborative effort that involves a group of diverse individuals or organizations will experience some elements of typical “partnership phases.” These include: 1) The “Forming” or “Getting to Know You” phase; 2) the “Norming” or “Honeymoon” phase; 3) the “Storming” or “Reality Hits” phase; and the 4) the “Performing” or “Settling In and Moving Forward” phase. Depending on how and when the partners engage with each other to do research, to plan, and to implement the initiative, several of these phases may be happening at any time! Here are some tips to get you through:

  • Start early to build informal and formal relationships and seek out mutual interests among public and private stakeholders;
  • Conduct in-depth research and analysis as a strategic tool to gain clarity about a potential shared long-term vision;
  • Formally organize and launch the initiative in a manner that says “Together we are embarking on something new”;
  • Create a vision that has employers and other stakeholders seeing how they support the comprehensive change envisioned;
  • Recognize that all partners have costs that must be supported;
  • Understand the level of shared internal resources available to implement the activities needed to achieve the goals. Ask all partners, including employers, to seek and contribute resources;
  • Be consistent, deliberate and strong about including input from employers and other stakeholders from beginning to end;
  • Engage all partners in assessing progress and celebrating success;
  • Employ a clear process that allows for adjustments to strategy along the way, without losing the integrity of the vision statement. This will require a convener with strong facilitation skills;
  • Identify a knowledgeable intermediary with skills and capacity to help guide and facilitate the implementation of a large-scale initiative;
  • Make meetings valuable learning opportunities and decision-making sessions;
  • Be honest that collaboration can be cumbersome, and takes time; and
  • Work actively to bring new resources and needed partners to the effort.
Tool Categories: