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Introduction to Partnerships

Par David Wilcox

This introduction to partnerships is designed to be read in conjunction with other material on this site which deals with collaboration between different interests involved in urban and rural regeneration programme (renewal or revitalisation are terms also used).

The term 'partnership' is now widely used where more than one organisation or interest is involved in, for example, an urban or rural regeneration programme. It may be too widely applied to situations where one powerful organisation is doing no more than consult with others, or mask fundamental differences of approach and objectives that will later lead to conflict.

Building Effective Local Partnerships (Local Government Management Board) offers as a definition:

A partnership is an agreement between two or more partners to work together to achieve common aims.

This Introduction deals with:

Some of the topics are covered in more detail in the other material cited above.

Successful partnership

The following factors for success emerge from surveys of partnerships, and workshops of practitioners involved in creating and running partnerships:

Failed partnership

The following are characteristics of failed attempts at partnership, or warnings that something is going wrong:

Sources: Building Effective Local Partnerships, ThePartnerships Handbook, and workshops.

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Participation and partnership

It may be easier to develop an appropriate approach to partnership if you have a simple theoretical framework for thinking about the wider issues of participation.

SherryArnstein, writing in 1969about citizen involvement in planning processes in the United States,described a ladder of participation.

1 Manipulation and 2 Therapy. Both are nonparticipative. The aim is to cure or educate the participants. Theproposed plan is best and the job of participation is to achievepublic support by public relations.

3 Informing. A most important first step to legitimate participation. But too frequently the emphasis is on a one way flow of information. No channel for feedback.

4 Consultation. Again a legitimate step &shyp attitude surveys, neighbourhood meetings and public enquiries. But Arnstein still feels this is just a window dressing ritual.

5 Placation. For example, co-option of hand-picked 'worthies' onto committees. It allows citizens to advise or plan ad infinitum but retains for power holders the right to judge the legitimacy or feasibility of the advice.

6 Partnership. Power is in fact redistributed through negotiation between citizens and power holders. Planning and decision-making responsibilities are shared e.g. through joint committees.

7 Delegated power. Citizens holding a clear majority of seats on committees with delegated powers to make decisions. Public now has the power to assure accountability of the programme to them.

8 Citizen Control. Have-nots handle the entire job of planning, policy making and managing a programme e.g. neighbourhood corporation with no intermediaries between it and the source of funds.

Arnstein's ladder of participation suggests some levels are better than others. I think it is more of a case of horses for courses &shyp different levels are appropriate in different circumstances.

Five stances

The key issue is what 'stance' you take if you are an organisation initiating or managing a process of participation or partnership building.

I suggest thinking of five levels &shyp or stances &shyp which offer increasing degrees of control to the others involved.

Information: The least you can do is tell people what is planned.

Consultation: You identify the problems, offer a number of options, and listen to the feedback you get.

Deciding together: You encourage others to provide some additional ideas and options, and join in deciding the best way forward.

Acting together: Not only do different interests decide together what is best, but they form a partnership to carry it out.

Supporting independent community initiatives: You help others do what they want &shyp perhaps within a framework of grants, advice and support provided by the resource holder.

The 'lower' levels of participation keep control with the initiator &shyp but they lead to less commitment from others. Partnership operates at the levels of Deciding Together and Acting Together.

Information is essential for all participation &shyp but is not participatory in itself.

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Apparently easy answers to partnership

When local authorities, private sector bodies, and indeed voluntary organisations, are faced with tight timetables and firm guidelines it is difficult to think through the complexities for participation and partnership. There is a strong temptation to go for a quick fix and hope to sort things out later. Here are a few health warnings on different forms of partnership.

Set up a forum

A forum may seem an easy way to get a wide range of interests together and act as a sounding board, but should it be labelled a partnership? For example:

Create special interest fora

Rather than putting all interests together, give them each a forum. But then:

Appoint community representatives

Instead of creating more organisations, give community representatives seats on the decision-making bodies. However:

Set up a Community Development Trust

Development trusts are non-profit-distributing companies, which may seek charitable status. They have their own staff and are governed by a Board including a range of interests. They are described in more detail elsewhere in theinformation sheets &shyp but they may not always be the most appropriate form of partnership.


Form a steering group of all interests

A steering group would have more say than a forum, but not control resources like a Development Trust. It may seem a reasonable compromise, but consider:

Run a Planning for Real exercise

Instead of relying solely on formal structures, using workshop techniques allows participation to be taken to residents and others. Planning for Real is one powerful technique which allows participants to build models of the neighbourhoods they want, and develop action plans. It provides more active involvement than public meetings or fora. However:

Get the money first, worry about partnership later

Dress up funding bids with token representation, then bring people on board when the money is there. This may be convenient for the bidding body &shyp however:

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Guidelines for partnership

Here are some guidelines which may offer you a way of deciding what sort of partnership you may wish to create, and how to make a start.

  1. Clarify your own aims and objectives in forming a partnership. What are you trying to achieve, and how will you explain that?
  2. Identify the stakeholders &shyp the key interests who can help or hinder the project or programme &shyp and put yourself in their shoes. Who holds the power?
  3. Consider who you really need as partners, and who would really want to be a partner. Some stakeholders may simply want to be consulted.
  4. Before approaching potential partners, make sure you have support and agreement within your own organisation about working with others.
  5. Make informal contact with partners to find out about their attitudes and interests before putting formal proposals.
  6. Communicate with your partners in language they will understand, focusing on what they may want to achieve.
  7. Plan the partnership process over time. For example, a new organisation may well take a year to set up.
  8. Use a range of methods to involve people &shyp workshop sessions as well as formal meetings. Be sociable.
  9. Encourage ideas from your partners. Ownership leads to commitment.
  10. Be open and honest.
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Other Internet resources

The Partnerships Handbook

A resource and guidebook for local, community-based groups addressing natural
resource, land use, or environmental issues. Compiled by Ann Moote, Water Resources Research Center, College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.

Ann Moote writes: 'Local partnerships are rapidly forming around the United States to address land use and natural resource management issues. At the same time, federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Environmental Protection Agency, are actively embracing partnerships in order to better achieve their environmental and land management
missions. Several agency programs now exist which can facilitate such partnerships.

'Yet most natural resource-based partnerships operate in isolation from one another, and without
knowledge of the technical and financial assistance that may be available to them. To address this
lack of communication and information exchange, this site:

Communications as Engagement.

The Millennium Report to the Rockefeller Foundation. October 1994. The Millennium Report was commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation in April 1994 as a key component of the Foundation's The Common Enterprise initiative. The initiative seeks to revitalize citizenship at the local level by bringing collaborative problem-solving and conflict resolution techniques to diverse groups of community stakeholders.

The Participatory Initiatives Web site has articles, participation techniques and a mailing list.

Participatory Initiatives is 'a diverse group of people with experiences including graduate and professional work in communications, media, planning, extension, adult education, international development, participatory research, and group facilitation. Our headquarters are in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.'

Internet Tour - Enhancing Planning and Participation

Resources selected by Michael Barndt for Milwaukee Associates in Urban Development (US).
'We can learn about the opportunities for supporting community building through
telecommunications by examining what other cities are already doing.'

Facilitator Central

Facilitation resources for trainers provided by the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University.

The Public Involvement Network

The Official Network of the International Association of Public Participation Practitioners

Pour plus d'informations, contacter:
Partnerships Online

E-Mail - dwilcox@pavilion.co.uk

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