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Stellar Partnerships

Stellar Partnerships: Corporate & Community Partnership

Building bridges, not walls

The world is overflowing with polarised views and opposing sides. Vote yes vs no. Rich vs poor. Disadvantaged versus privileged. Climate deniers versus science. I could make this list go on and on. The challenges we face, from climate change denial to social and economic equality, demand that we transcend our differences and work together for a common purpose. But we aren’t. Will we before it’s too late?! I wish there were more partnership managers in our world. Individuals, like you, who possess the unique ability to bridge gaps, unite polarising forces and drive collective change (and partnerships) for good. Here’s why I think all of us partnership managers are incredible:

Building bridges and uniting opposing forces

Non-profits and for-profits are the essence of differing purposes. Just like many of the other world issues we are dealing with. Climate change, for instance, is an issue that elicits contrasting beliefs and responses. Whilst some passionately advocate for urgent action, others deny or downplay its significance. Shouting, presenting cold hard facts (wildfires in Greece anyone?!), demonstrating or attempting to force change just isn’t working. What is needed are people who can rise above the noise and bring opposing sides together. You do this day in, day out. You play the role in creating a platform for dialogue and understanding. You can see the views of both sides, hold different perspectives and build connections between seemingly incompatible groups. Partnership managers can bring opposing teams together under a shared purpose. We need more of this.

Balancing Expectations and Objectives

In recent research – Hidden Opportunities, it is clear that businesses and charities want different things from partnerships. The research details the mismatched expectations of each partner meaning both are missing out. In a world of competing agendas, navigating the tightrope between expectations, needs, and objectives is hard. Yet, you are all doing it. Go you! If you can understand that meaningful progress requires compromise and the ability to focus on the bigger picture you will convince your internal stakeholders (always half the battle) and develop a compelling commercial proposition for partners. You’ll have much easier yes’s coming your way.

Working with the wonderful team at Beyond Blue a few years ago, it was clear that they needed to win over their internal stakeholders before they could win external partners. It isn’t a partnership if you can’t offer anything value to a partner. They succeeded by helping other departments understand that partners could bring hard-to-reach audiences to them as part of a partnership.

Purpose-Driven Leadership

Partnership managers at NFP’s want to make a difference. You are driven by purpose. It feels good to do good. Plus, I don’t know many people who choose to work for a NFP because of the great salary on offer. You see and hear each day the results of the combined efforts of your work. That person’s life that is now on an upward trajectory because of the impact of your work. It’s a much deeper motivation than achieving goals and KPI’s. Your ability to use this motivation and influence through storytelling is powerful. It transfers your motivation from I and me to us and we. That’s exactly what the world needs more of right now. Imagine the difference if we could focus on the collective good of us rather than an individual’s own personal needs. You already do this every day and now we need more of the world’s population to think in the same way. GSK rose to the challenge of saving 1 million children’s lives. It took their 200K partnership with Save the Children into the 10’s of millions.

Empathy, Inspiration, and Creativity

Your role as a partnership manager demands more than just strategic thinking and negotiation skills. Empathy, inspiration, and creativity are essential qualities that enable you to connect with diverse individuals and encourage collective action. Understanding the perspectives, fears, and aspirations of others allows partnership managers to build meaningful relationships and inspire others to step out of their comfort zones.

Through creativity and innovative thinking, partnership managers can design win-win solutions that address the concerns of all parties involved. You can overcome resistance by presenting alternatives that benefit everyone and foster a sense of ownership and commitment to the shared cause. When Covid lockdowns started impacting Lifeline’s ability to answer calls, Cisco created a solution to enable volunteers to answer calls in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

In a world overwhelmed by division and discord, the need for partnership managers has never been more critical. Partnerships can be a tough gig. You need to bring together polarizing forces (internal and external), manage competing interests, and inspire purpose-driven collaboration. Yet you drive positive change and make progress on complex issues. As we strive for a more sustainable, equitable, and united future, let us embrace the qualities of partnership managers and work together to create a better world for all. Remember, it is through collective action that we can overcome the challenges that face us, and together, we can achieve the unimaginable.