1. Negotiating the partnership
- Identify and set clear objectives for the partnership in line with each organisation’s strategic direction. Remember, goals are general aims, and objectives are more specific. Objectives need to be able to be measured in some way to determine if outcomes are successful. What gets measured, gets managed!
- Determine and act on likely strengths (S) and weaknesses (W)
(S and W are internal to organisations), opportunities (O) and threats (T)
(O and T are in relation to factors external to the organisations e.g. technology, economic climate, legal and political issues) of the partnership arrangement. This means doing a SWOT analysis, or situational analysis.
- Come to a common agreement with the organisation about the services and responsibilities for each organisation. It is most important that the expectations of each party are known, AND when the contract or agreement is drawn up, that each party is aware of each-others expectations and responsibilities. These must be clearly stated in the agreement/contract document. Be sure to take any cultural and legal aspects into account.
- Remember agreements/contracts are binding (usually legal), so care must be taken in their formulation. Risk management involves having a contingency plan (an alternative, which might include conflict negotiation)
- Arrangements about resources which are needed for the partnership arrangement, and who is supplying which resources must also be made, and preferably written into the agreement. Examples of resources are buildings, equipment, finance and funding, information, people, power/energy, technology, and time. Intellectual property, insurance, Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and other considerations may have to be agreed upon.
- When putting together a new collaborative arrangement for assessment, it is important that all partners clarify exactly what is expected. The RTO must validate assessments and this includes personnel reviewing, comparing and evaluating on an annual basis the process of assessment, the tools used and the evidence gathered and the judgements made. The RTO must document action to improve quality and consistency of assessment (Bateman and Clayton 2002, p.28).
- Facilitate the drawing up and signing of a contract or agreement by appropriate personnel in both organisations. If necessary where there may be a language or cultural challenge/barrier, ensure a reliable efficient and trustworthy intermediary or conduit is employed, totally independent without a conflict of interest if one is used. If each party has their intermediary then your representative in negotiations, should clearly be working for your organisation).
- Do not be rushed into signing documents and ensure you understand them completely. Be sure to address intellectual property issues.
- Develop a list of barriers and risk factors which your RTO or organisation’s training unit might face when developing partnerships with educational institutions, private business, government and not-for-profit organisations and suggest a solution for each. Refer to the flowchart in Appendix A which presents a process of preliminary negotiation (Bateman and Clayton 2002)
2. Implementing the partnership
- The processes for implementation and for reporting and recordkeeping are developed in consultation, and parameters for quality assurance are set. Budgets (income and expenditure) will be included in recordkeeping and evaluation.
- A learning and development strategy is drawn up through consultation.
- When developing the strategy and the method of implementation, reporting and recording, the learning and development service must be contextualised to suit the client. For example, the culture and country, prior knowledge of learners, English as a second language, and consideration of any other challenges, risks or barriers.
- The learning strategy is then implemented (ensuring that the tools and resources for learning suit the client and delivery context).
3. Maintaining the partnership
- Using appropriate communication and interpersonal skills to deliver the training, and to develop and maintain the professional relationship, is of the utmost importance. The provider must be sensitive to all aspects of cultural difference and diversity. This includes differences in gender, age, values and beliefs, language, disability, cultural and religious backgrounds and settings, geographical or location factors, ritual, and other influences on lifestyle and working conditions.
- Support to training staff must be provided, who in turn need to support the ‘student’/trainee clientele with frequent and ongoing communication or contact.
- Genuine two-way communication which is friendly, but professional and respectful, is timely and addresses all issues or questions is paramount to a good lasting relationship, whatever communication channel is used (computer [email, social media], phone, face-to-face).
- Follow-up communication after the end of projects/courses, with the goal of later partnerships or referral work.
4. Evaluating and reviewing the partnership
- Develop the criteria and the process for evaluation for the learning and development at an early stage in the partnership process. The criteria and the process for evaluation should be known and clearly understood by partners This will allow the partners to determine how well the collaborative process is working and to identify corrective actions. A tool might be set up to allow for early evaluation and ongoing monitoring, rather than evaluating only at the end of a course/project/alliance This could be made available on an appropriate website (e.g. for students on Moodle, or on the company websites for organisational feedback). Used repeatedly, such a tool allows a partnership to track changes over time (Centre for the Advancement of Strategies in Health n d)
- Carry out the evaluation in terms of the application of new skills, knowledge and attitude or behavioural change (or modification) in the workplace. The main task is to measure objective outcomes to establish if goals were achieved. Evaluation might also determine whether group dynamic characteristics such as shared leadership, two-way communication, conflict resolution, participatory decision-making, agreed problem-solving processes, trust, effective facilitation, perceived benefits, commitment, and collaboration in meetings were evident.
- Set up a critical review of the partnership arrangement involving both organisations, the evaluation process and the approaches taken. For example:
- Were all phases of the partnership (formation, implementation and maintenance) monitored?
- Were inputs and throughputs all converted into the product?
- Were governance and management aligned with partnership strategy, and capabilities aligned with environmental forces?
- Did partners integrate and coordinate their activities effectively and was the approach in doing this efficient?
(NB: effective is achieving objectives, efficient is to achieve objectives with the most economical use of resources).
- Make suggestions for improving existing and/or future partnership arrangements, and present this report to relevant personnel. In your report you must address the following two points:
a) Is the current investment in collaboration warranted? Have the collaborative goals been achieved for all partners, and is the partnership outcome better than what you would expect from being a single agent operating on your own?
Can you identify the mechanism, or pathway, that enables your partnership(s) to accomplish more than operating as an individual organisation without a partner?
b) Was the return on the investment maximized and how – did your organisation realise the full advantage of collaboration and the partnership arrangement?
Have you had been involved in Working in Partnership with Industry, Enterprises and Community Groups? We would love to hear about the learning and development strategy that you developed and how it was contextualised for the organisation. Feel free to add your comments below.