Building Local Partnerships
As many Neighborhood Networks centers work to sustain their centers,
developing partnerships emerges as a key part of building a strong,
effective, and efficient technology center. With constraints on
funding, time, and staffing, collaborating with organizations within
your community can broaden your sphere of influence and enable you
to become more successful in your center's mission. Developing partnerships
is also a way to directly address a consortium's or center's identified
Steps to Creating Partnerships
Asset mapping is one of the first steps many organizations take
in building local partnerships. By determining the resources in
your community, you may have already identified potential partners.
Organizations often look at local corporations, schools, foundations,
and libraries. However, what about the police departments, religious
groups, parks, or recreation centers? Partnerships can be as creative
as you want them to be as long as they fit a common need within
the collaborating organizations. Asset mapping is a process in which
organizations "brainstorm" on the resources within their community.
According to "Promising Practices for Building Partnerships," by
Connects Consortium, organizations should do an asset mapping
around the following topics:
||Individual assets--Skills, talents, and
experiences of community members.|
||Institutional assets--Examples, hospitals,
||Federal and state assets--Examples, state
education agencies, military facilities. |
||Organizational assets--Examples, newspapers,
radio, TV, business associations, and citizen groups. |
||Physical assets--Examples, vacant land,
mining, and industrial structures.|
||Cultural assets--Examples, historical/art
groups, cultural organizations, and nonprofit groups. |
While conducting an asset mapping, organizations should think about
the following questions:
||What are the goals and needs of this organization?
||What goals are we trying to achieve? |
||Which goals do we need to work on? |
Once organizations become aware of the resources around them, as
well as their successes and areas needing improvement, they are
enlightened and more receptive to the possibilities of local partnerships.
Your Organization's Assets
Partnerships take many forms and can include donations of money,
exchange of goods and services, volunteers, and shared programming.
It is important that a center determine its assets and how those
assets will help potential partners meet and exceed their goals.
For example, if your center has been successful with workforce development
programs, but has experienced a decrease in participation, you may
seek out a partnership with the local youth halfway house in which
your center provides training and space to the residents, and the
halfway house can provide funding. If your center has a great meeting
space, you may decide to form partnerships with local organizations
to rent out the meeting and conference space. Centers should be
prepared to think "outside of the box" when developing partnerships.
Don't be afraid to collaborate with organizations that may not seem
obvious, but share a common goal.
Types of Partnerships
Partnerships take on many forms and centers should be clear about
what type of partnership best suits their particular needs. According
to Neighborhood Networks (1999), there are four different types
||Networking: Two organizations exchange
information for the betterment of both. For example, a Neighborhood
Networks center could collect the names of all youth in grades
9-12 and refer them to the local community center for SAT preparatory
||Coordinating: Two or more organizations
work together to make sure that their activities do not overlap.
For example, a Neighborhood Networks center that offers children's
activities could partner with an afterschool program. Children
in the afterschool program could come to the center for technology-related
activities, and the children who go to the partner could receive
specified tutoring aid.|
||Cooperating: Two or more organizations
share resources in order to achieve a common goal. For example,
a Neighborhood Networks center could partner with a church group
that owns a van. The center could offer free computer classes
to church members; in return, the center could use the van during
the week for field trips and other outings. |
||Collaborative: Two organizations work
together to the extent that they share the "risks, responsibilities,
and rewards." For example, a Neighborhood Networks center could
train adults in Microsoft Office and computer basics. A local
for-profit training facility needs computer teachers and hires
the adults that have successfully completed the training at
the center to teach their classes. |
Once you have identified areas within your organization that could
benefit from partnership building, the next step is to find partners.
Administrators often cannot find time to network outside of their
center, but this is the most effective way to find potential partners.
Nonprofit associations' general meetings, Neighborhood Networks
Week, and nonprofit technical assistance trainings are great places
to meet other administrators and learn about their organizations.
A 5-minute conversation and business card exchange can spark ideas
and interests that can turn into great partnerships.
If you already have created a list of potential partners, do not
hesitate to call them and speak with them about the possibilities.
You may also put together a 1-page fact sheet or letter highlighting
the center's history, goals, and objectives, and the probability
of a partnership. Set up a time to meet face-to-face in the near
future to discuss the partnership's possibility.
Once you have decided to move forward on your partnerships, it
is important to safeguard against potential problems down the road.
Centers are often so eager to be involved in a partnership that
they overlook clarifying all roles, responsibilities, and tangible
returns on the partnership. First, you must articulate the features
and benefits of the partnership as well as each organization's roles
and responsibilities in a written agreement. Most centers use a
MOU (Memorandum of Understanding). The MOU can help safe guard against
confusion and frustration in the long run and spells out each organization's
roles and responsibilities. Centers also need to make sure that
they have adequate staffing, funding, and time to make the partnership
work. In the early stages of a partnership, it may take time to
get all parties on the same page while developing a plan of action.
Administrators need to consider the time and money involved in developing
the partnership. Depending on the type of partnership, partners
may need to determine the leadership and how decisions will be made
as challenges arises. Lastly, communicating and monitoring of the
partnership are important aspects of running a smooth collaboration.
All partners involved should make a decision as to how often the
key players will meet. How long those meetings will last? Where
the meetings will occur? What organization will lead the meeting?
In communicating both internally and externally about the partnership,
develop best practices to facilitate the communication process effectively.