Finding and Appointing a Deputy

Apart from requiring the support of staff and members of both partners, community business partnerships need a core circle of business staff and community group members - sometimes called partnership drivers - to make sure the arrangement continues to move forward.

But it is important for partners to keep planning for the future - and one way to do that is to appoint "deputies" so that the knowledge of what is needed to make the partnerhsip work is shared within the business/group.

A deputy in that context is a back-up - someone who can be called into action as a partnership driver if needed.

Examples of when your partnership may need a deputy include:
  • If a partnership driver suffers an illness, injury or, in a worst case scenario, dies.
  • If a partnership driver is going to be absent for a period due to holidays, re-location with work or long-service leave.
  • If a member leaves the community group or company that makes up the partnership.
  • If a partnership driver decides to step back from their role for whatever reason.
In cases like these, it would be common for the deputy to act in a temporary capacity until a formal replacement is found. But in the end, that deputy may end up taking over the role permanently or - if not - at least ensures the knowledge of what is required for the partnership to work is retained within the organisation.

To fill the role of a deputy, a person has to be willing and able to keep up-to-date with what is going on in the partnership, what activities are being planned for the future, to come up with ideas on how the relationship could be extended and who they should work with from their business or community group partner.

This means they may have to attend partnership meetings, take part in activities and generally be aware and involved in the community business partnership.

There are some things to think about when looking to appoint a deputy, including:
  • Identifying that person early in the partnership process
  • Making sure you have your back-up in place as early as possible will help them get involved in the partnership from as near to its origin as possible. That means they won't have to play catch-up later on.
  • Looking at who is the best person for the job:
    • Think about who would be best suited to take on the role.
    • Have there been people in your group or business who have shown an interest in the partnership?
    • Is there someone at your business or community group who has the time and skills to take part?
  • Seeing who is willing to do it:
    • It is no use earmarking someone as a deputy if they are not willing to do it - even if they are the best person for the job. Make sure the person you are looking at to fill the role is someone who actually wants to do it.
Once you have selected a person to act as a deputy, it may also be a good idea to put in place some ground rules, including:
  • Clear guidelines as to when the deputy will act, as well as how long they can remain in charge once taking over.
  • Determine who the deputy is answerable to.
  • Make clear what their role as a deputy will be, and what they need to do as a deputy. This could include:
    • Attending meetings or briefings.
    • Putting together statements or documents.
    • Organising events and activities.
It is best practice for groups and businesses to also keep a file with all the relevant information on the partnership so that someone new can come in and pick up the threads. A strong partnership that is embedded in the organisations and where an active and easily updated record is maintained on both sides can easily survive and thrive if key staff leave.