Building Partnership Capacity

This section describes the process of building the partnership’s capacity to design, develop and implement an intervention to address priority health issues.

familyYou can think about partnership capacity in two ways:

  1. the structure of collaboration, or the number and type of groups that form the partnership; and
  2. the process of collaboration, or the degree of engagement of partners.

A first step for developing the structures and processes is to inventory the personal, organizational and structural capacities and resources that members bring to the partnership. The inventory may be conducted by asking members a series of questions, such as the following:

  • Who are the individuals, organizations and institutions that make-up this partnership?
  • What individual and organizational assets (skills and experience) do partners bring to the table? Consider assets in areas such health services, office management, industry, public relations, media, community organizing, research, evaluation, education, transportation, and housing.
  • Can we leverage resources that various partners bring to the table? Use the attached “Leveraging Worksheet” to help identify those opportunities.
  • Are partners representative of the people living in your community with regard to race or ethnicity, income, education, age, ability status, sexual orientation, gender, or other characteristics important for the issues the partnership will address?
  • What are the communication and decision making processes utilized by the partnership, or what should they be if not in place?
  • How does the partnership deal with conflict, or how should it be dealt with.
  • What activities or initiatives to address the priority issue or issues are already underway in the community?

Using information from the inventory, the partnership’s structure and processes may be formalized. These may include roles and responsibilities of members including a leadership and management structure, decision making processes, conflict management strategies, processes for facilitating discussions, and meeting frequency and purpose. Structures and processes should allow for maximum participation rather than serving as obstacles or barriers for members to contribute to the vision and mission of the partnership.

Strengthening the capacity of the partnership may be accomplished by the following:

  1. Developing by-laws and a strategic plan that reflect the vision and mission of the partnership.
  2. Conducting regular meetings with a clear purpose and that start and end on time.
  3. Defining roles and responsibilities for all members.
  4. Forming active committees so partners are involved in the issues of most concern to them. The use of small working groups may be most effective for planning, implementing and evaluating interventions.
  5. Ensuring consistent and clear communication among members through the utilization of list serves or newsletters.
  6. Sharing leadership responsibilities among members by delegating meaningful tasks with timelines that are manageable.
  7. Building social time into gatherings to allow members to network and get to know one another.
  8. Recognizing hard work and accomplishments through celebrations and enjoyable activities.
  9. Agreeing on fiduciary responsibilities and developing a budget for the partnership.
  10. Building relationships with elected officials and other key community leaders to gain support for the partnership and its mission.
  11. Recruiting technical assistance and support from outside the partnership as needed.

Other considerations for improving partnership capacity include the following:

  • The structure of the partnership influences how decisions are made and if too hierarchical may make it more difficult to accomplish goals and objectives in a timely manner.
  • The partnership vision, mission, goals and objectives should be revisited periodically, particularly during periods of membership growth or decline.
  • Providing periodic training for members and evaluating partnership efforts are essential for improving the partnership’s capacity to improve the health of the community.
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