End or Change?

One part of a partnership's lifecycle that can be confusing is when it reaches the point of "end or change".

Community business partners can easily fall into the trap of believing a partnership is wrecked when all it needs is a slight change to its structure or goals.

Falling into this trap can lead to wasted opportunities, particularly if a lot of work has gone into establishing, developing and promoting the partnership.

Are we done?

Community business partners should have set down an exit strategy, or plans to wrap up the partnership, as part of formalising their arrangement. Information on this can be found in the Putting Together an Agreement - Businesses and Putting Together an Agreement - Community Groups Help Sheets available at the Community Business Partnerships Brokerage Service section of the Our Community website.

A simple way to find out an answer to the "end or change" problem is for community business partners to ask themselves this question:

"Have we achieved our partnership's aims, or are there still things we need to do that can't be achieved in this form of partnership?"

  • If both community group and business agree that your work is done and your objectives have been achieved:
    • Your partnership's exit strategy can be put in place - including time for celebrations and congratulations on a job well done.
    • Apart from formally drawing your partnership to a close, both businesses and community groups should allow some time to take stock of the lessons that have been learned so they can be put to use in the future.
  • If there are still things left to be done, but which can't be achieved within the partnership's current structure, it could be time for a change.
    • Such a change could take the form of an altered partnership structure, the inclusion or exclusion of others in the partnership, or the merging of several partnerships.
A good way to start the change process is to look at what you want the changed partnership to achieve, and how you and your community business partner can best do that. In some respects that means you and your partner could repeat some of the steps you went through when first establishing the partnership.

Some tips that may help with this phase of your partnership are:

  • Re-examine your original partnership aims.
This can give you a basis from which to find a partnership model to achieve them. It is also an idea to see if your original aims were realistic and well targeted, or if they should change because the task has changed.
  • Talk about the change with your partner.
Take time to discuss with your community business partner not only about the need to change to help achieve the outcomes you want, but about how that change could take shape.
  • Emphasise the need to be smart in making the change.
Emphasise the building of a new partnership that will be better and smarter than the one before.
  • Communicate the need for a change in the partnership to people in both groups.
Ask your partner for feedback on the existing partnership as well as asking them for input to changes, if appropriate. When communicating the change itself, help those involved adjust to it.

It is important not to see the need to change as an admission of the failure of the original partnership model.
No matter how much planning you and your partner may have done, issues or difficulties will arise that no one would have foreseen.

Treat your original partnership as a learning experience, and take away from it the lessons you learned - both good and bad - and the positives it produced. Then put to use what you have learned when building your changed partnership.