Hearing from the Experts on Lessons They've Learned During Their Partnerships – Part 1

When starting out on the road to a partnership, it can be valuable to gain some knowledge from someone who has already overcome obstacles and gone through the processes of establishing a successful partnership with a community group or business.
 
As part of the Community and Business Partnerships Brokerage Service section of Our Community's website, some of this country's most successful partnerships have answered our questions and shared their knowledge with the aim of encouraging others to form beneficial relationships.

The full list of these case studies can be found here, with each one either winning or being short listed for the finals of the 2003 Prime Ministers Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships.

This series of two Help Sheets looks at some of the lessons they have learned in establishing their own community business partnerships. Readers might find that some of the lessons listed by various groups in these two Help Sheets are similar, which probably marks them as among the more important points to take heed of.

What the Experts Say …

PARTNERSHIP 1

Not-for-profit group Asthma NT and oil and gas company Woodside Energy Ltd have worked together to ensure a viable swimming program for children with asthma.

The Woodside Asthma Swimming Program is vital, as swimming is the best form of exercise for asthma suffers. The program coming out of the partnership has helped a number of local families and eased the pressure they feel because a family member has asthma. The success of this partnership saw it win the Large Business Award (NT) in the 2003 Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnership.

Asthma NT and Woodside listed one main lesson they had learned in the course of their partnership – that was:
  • Staying in touch closely and continuously with their community business partner.

PARTNERSHIP 2

Melbourne-based family advocacy and support group Kildonan Child and Family Services and Yarra Valley Water (YVW) established a partnership in 2000 so they could work together in developing programs to help YVW customers who were having trouble paying their bills.

This successful partnership has seen YVW develop new hardship policies to help those struggling to pay their bills, as well as offering free advice to those customers on how to reduce those bills. The partnership won an Encouragement Award (Victoria) in the 2003 Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships.

Allan Cole from YVW said the water company had learned some good lessons from taking part in the partnership:
  • That the partnership needs "top level management support" to be successful, and it was vital any training that was needed was put in place across the entire business.
  • A partnership takes time to put in place, and that some mistakes or hiccups along the way were normal.
  • The partnership needs to be continuously refined and reviewed.
Kildonan's Susan Fraser said respect, innovation and a willingness to learn were among the key lessons they had learned:
  • Value the differences between partners, and develop a respectful relationship.
  • Be prepared to innovate with your business partner, but also through your programs.
  • Stay in touch with consumers or those who are using or involved in your partnership's programs and activities.
  • Learn from those who you are working with, as well as the partnership process itself. In doing so, develop organisational skills and commitment to the partnership.

PARTNERSHIP 3

Chances for Children is a support body working across north-west Victoria to assist disadvantaged young people to improve themselves through access to educational, sporting and cultural opportunities.

The body joined a partnership with property and land development firm Executive Homes which operates on multiple levels – including the donation of a portion of the money raised from the sale of a specially-built Executive Homes house to Chances for Children, and numerous fundraising activities centred around benefit functions and the establishment of coffee shops at Executive Homes display homes.

The partnership won the Medium Business Award (Victoria) in the 2003 Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships.

Ken Carr from Mallee Family Care - which operates the Chances for Children initiative – and Paula Mastrippolito from Executive Homes said they had learned about the complexities of community business partnerships:
  • Partnerships were more complex than "the traditional gift philanthropic framework". Because of this, clear guidelines are needed for managing expectations and making sure both parties profit from the joint venture.
  • Trust and respect were both crucial.
  • A realistic understanding of the culture and capacity of each partner by the other was also cited as important, which means preparation and planning are among the keys to partnership success.

PARTNERSHIP 4

Zoe's Place is a Queensland-based program which provides respite and hospice care for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Its partnership with builder AV Jennings has seen progress on the construction of a new "home away from home" for sick children, which offers them support while allowing their families respite. This partnership won an Encouragement Award (Qld) in the 2003 Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnership.

Zoe's Place said they had learned to:
  • Remain professional and respect advice offered by their business partner.
  • Keep AV Jennings informed of media coverage possibilities and opportunities, and.
  • To thank their partner when appropriate.

For more advice from our experts on some of the lessons they have learned through their partnership, refer to the Help Sheet Hearing from the Experts on Lessons They've Learned During Their Partnerships – Part 2, also available at the partnerships Brokerage Service section of Our Community's website.