Intentional Partnerships

Bringing change to a rapidly changing global society demands partnership.

Brian O’Connel refers to the purpose of partnership as: “solving larger problems by bringing to bear multiple resources, improving efficiency, and promoting increased ministry innovation.”* It is valuable to identify the four key components of his statement namely:

  • Shared focus – “solving larger problems”
  •  Contribution – “bringing to bear multiple resources”
  • Participation – “improving efficiency”
  • Creative thinking – “increased ministry innovation”

For an organization to move to a position of “shared focus”, it must be able to define the problem within the larger sphere of transformation. For instance, a concern for the spiritual transformation of youth in a community is intertwined with education and the socio-economic environment of the community. This requires engagement with all the stakeholders in the community with whom different levels of partnership can be considered. According to the Partnering Continuum by Brian, this phase would fall in the “Connecting” level of partnership.

After the “Connection Phase”, decisions on the levels of contribution, participation and sharing in “creative thinking” takes place. This will obviously vary from partnership to partnership and is determined by a consideration of:

  • The level of involvement in a project in terms of time, funds and resources.
  • The level of relationship and trust in the partnership.
  • The level of commitment and risk in terms of the project.
  • The level of joint ownership in terms of decision making and planning.

These levels of consideration depend on the organisation’s commitment to address the “larger problem”, its willingness to share resources and its preparedness to develop trust relationships.

Brian explains this in the Partnering Continuum diagram as follows:

This diagram has assisted Mergon in defining the levels of partnership within our funding model. Each level of partnership holds different levels of commitment and expectation.

We are always open to new connections and relationships.  Within this CONNECTING phase, we are willing to share information, experiences & insights, but make no formal funding commitment.

As the relationship develops and a higher level of alignment in terms of the “shared focus” becomes evident, we might make smaller amounts of discretionary funding available, reflecting a low level of commitment and funding exposure. This CO-OPERATING phase allows for the assessment of the relationship for possible increased levels of engagement.

The continued growth in the relationship may lead to a CO-INVESTING phase with an increased financial commitment to a particular project or initiative. This allows the team to gain a thorough understanding of the organisation’s vision, mission and operations.

In cases where the trust relationship and alignment grows, we may decide to form a COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIP. This means a commitment to a deep relationship with a high level of trust and a significant resource commitment from Mergon in a typically longer-term partner funding.  We may also agree with a partner to closely collaborate on a specific strategic initiative, jointly committing to certain resource contributions and outcomes.

We find that the level of strategic partnerships of an organization is often indicative of its impact. The development of a partnership engagement strategy becomes essential for long-term sustainability and relevance. We therefore encourage you to rediscover the strength of partnership.

Momberg is a relationship manager at Mergon, private investment group that exists to impact lives, and seeks to equip others to do the same.

*Getting Past the Myths of Partnering, Brian O’Connel, Mission Frontiers: Networks are changing the shape of the world, Issue 39:2, March – April 2017, P31-34

{This is an extract of the article. Read the full article on the Mergon website.}