Hearing from the Experts on Lessons They've Learned During Their Partnerships – Part 2

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 being short listed for the finals of the 2003 Prime Ministers Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnerships.

The second of this two-part series of 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 are similar, which probably denotes these as among the more important lessons to take heed of.

What the Experts Say …

PARTNERSHIP 1

Blackwood Centre for Adolescent Development and international consultancy firm Centre for Executive Development (CED) Pty Ltd have worked together to forge a partnership that has seen CED use its contacts and expertise to help Blackwood establish new leadership and education programs for its target audience – young people at risk – as well as improve on existing ones.

All this has been done within a tight funding framework through both parties working together to help Blackwood improve on what it already did well. The partnership was awarded the top national award for the Small Business Category of the 2003 Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnership.

The Blackwood Centre's David Hayes said they had not only learned they did have something to offer a business partner, but that CED had gained something from the partnership:
  • "What they (CED) gained was a sense of social belonging and empowerment which reinforced their commitment to their workplace," he said.
CED's director Denis Bourke said they had learned plenty of lessons about "determination, persistence and optimism" from Blackwood's staff and students, but added there were some general partnership lessons they had learned as well:
  • "The main lessons for organisations that might wish to set up a similar partnership has been that with a little effort, great things can be done. All that is required is the willingness to take the first step.

PARTNERSHIP 2

The Age Newspaper and Hume City Council joined forces in one of the more physically noticeable examples of community business partnership – the creation of the Age Library within the Hume Global Learning Centre

The library is the first such facility in Broadmeadows, a multi-cultural working class suburb in Melbourne's north-west, with the Global Learning Centre itself a partnership between the council, State Government, The Age, Ford Australia and the Pratt Foundation.

The library boasts a growing membership and a wide range of multicultural books and materials. The Age works with the council to run programs at the library for schools and young people, while there is access to The Age's resources and personnel for educational and training activities. The partnership's success saw it win the Large Business category (Vic) in the 2003 Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnership.

Hume Council's Vanessa Little said they had learned a lot about partnership "ownership" and staff involvement:
  • There are untapped resources inside organisations in that are willing to take part in partnerships.
  • "Ownership of the partnership needs to be at all levels across both partners.
  • That working beyond just sponsorship created relationships and understanding, which in turn saw many ideas for projects come up.
The Age's Nigel Henham said they had learned that partnerships meant more than just sponsorship:
  • "Partnerships are very worthwhile because they directly involve the community in a way pure sponsorship does not," he said.

PARTNERSHIP 3

PMI Mortgage Insurance Ltd and Habitat for Humanity (a non-denominational Christian housing organisation which builds decent and affordable homes in partnership with low-income families) have agreed on a three-year partnership that sees PMI sponsor one house for each year of the partnership.

The partnership also involves PMI staff and customers putting in their own time to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity. The partnership took out an Encouragement Award (NSW) in the 2003 Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Community Business Partnership.

Michael Neary from PMI said they had learned some "give and take" was involved:
  • "Learn to adjust your management style to work with the community group. They may not be in the same mindset and have the same time deadlines as you," he said.
Similarly, Habitat for Humanity's Shauna Wood said you needed to be aware of your partner's needs:
  • Corporates' needs must be prioritised, meaning there needs to be co-ordination and understanding between partners

For more experts' advice on some of the lessons they have learned during their community business partnership, refer to the Help Sheet Hearing from the Experts on Lessons They've Learned During Their Partnerships – Part 1, also available at the partnerships Brokerage Service section of the Our Community website.