Partnerships often evaporate because there always seem to be good reasons to walk away, which is much easier than making things work.
Stuck in my mind is an announcement some years back that homelessness charities Shelter and Crisis were to merge. It was presented as a mutually beneficial arrangement. But then Crisis had a windfall donation and the marriage was off.
In September, I blogged about the importance of the work Children’s Centres do. As I said back then, we won funding from Wessex Water who liked the idea of Quids in! helping people help themselves and we’ve started supplying Children’s Centres in the north of their supply area. It was also a great opportunity to work with partners who understood their strengths and how we could fill a gap without stepping on anyone’s toes. After all, Ofsted charges the Centres with addressing money management, employment and digital inclusion and yet they’re staffed by childcare professionals. The introductions have also led onto work to help jobseekers find work through our partners at Clean Slate Training & Employment.
Partnerships work best when both parties have identified needs and recognised gaps in their own provision. It’s frustrating to see organisations try to be all things to all people when there are specialists needing to find commissions where they’re needed.
One book that covers how partnerships can work is Marketing Judo by John Barnes and Richard Richardson. It describes the authors’ journey as entrepreneurs and how teaming up with businesses with complementary strengths can benefit both parties, achieving successes neither one could pull off on their own.
Another, which describes how to identify the work an organisation is best suited to, is From Good to Great by Jim Collins. In it, he describes the Hedgehog Concept where the most successful organisations have branched out into new projects that reflect where their skills base lies, what their staff team are passionate about, and what fires their financial engines. Compare that to the idea of Children’s Centres setting up new employment or money management projects (although some probably have, with the input of people with specialist knowledge in those areas).
It’s easy enough for us to supply Quids in! magazine to anyone who wants to provide them to their users or tenants. We have to cover costs and it was a departure to get the initiative funded rather than bought in by a paying customer but it’s a model we’re looking to replicate, especially if there are willing partners like Children’s Centres, or even food banks or work clubs, who could use the resource around the UK. More of a test of any partnership will be if we move onto on-site support with money, jobs or getting online.
Interested in working closer with Quids in! magazine or the Social Publishing Project? Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org