How to Collaborate in Five Simple Steps
We believe more, and better, collaboration amongst Northern Ireland’s community and voluntary sector organisations, and with others in other sectors, is essential if the on-going needs of individuals and communities are to be better met now and into the future.
If you are ready to take the next step towards collaboration, we have five simple steps that could help you along the way.
Identify a partner
Identifying a partner for collaborative working is often the most important step.
You need to consider if you are choosing another organisation that you already have a strong working relationship with, or whether you are going to work with a new organisation altogether. Make a list of everything you would like to find in a partner.
The main point to keep in mind is that the proposed partner shares your objectives, governance arrangements and organisational structures.
Establish a plan of action
Your plan will be based on what you are hoping to achieve from the collaboration. You need to outline your end goals and how they will help your beneficiaries.
Some organisations choose to set up a project board to outline actions from beginning to completion, others set up a committee or a group to oversee the project.
Collaborative working can expose organisations to a variety of greater risks and liabilities, but these can be planned for and managed. Partnership work can lead to loss of flexibility and autonomy, dilution of key messages, and a lack of consistency across the board.
Carrying out a ‘due diligence’ process prior to collaboration will give you full knowledge of the organisation that you are seeking to work with. Trustees should ensure that they have identified any potential risks to their charity before entering into any agreement.
Set up an evaluation structure
Collaborating partners need to be clear from the outset about what they are hoping to achieve in the short, medium and long term. In many cases an evaluation can be carried out in-house by taking into account the views of those involved on the project.
Outlining and assessing achievements as you go along can help to keep your collaboration on track, while delivering key objectives.
Have an exit strategy in place
Collaboration agreements must take into account how and when a project should come to an end.
This is a normal part of the planning process. Perhaps there will be a set time on the length of the project, or there might be certain circumstances that would allow for a withdrawal from one side.
You must prepare for this situation in order to minimise the impact on your beneficiaries.