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Partnerships: People, Purpose, Possibility, Process, and Product

PAUL GRAVETT, Paul Gravett Consulting | 

I am not given to making predictions, but I have long believed that partnerships will be a hallmark of nonprofit arts organizations that survive in the future. As resources of all kinds become more scarce, collaborations with other nonprofit organizations (either in the arts or cross-sector), corporations and governmental agencies will become even more necessary than they are already.

While many arts collaborations are often borne out of scarcity, they tend to begin and end with the product: the co-production or co-presentation.This may serve an immediate and obvious need, but partnerships have the probability of offering much greater potential, value and benefit when they are founded on a deeper understanding and commitment.

This may serve an immediate and obvious need, but partnerships have the probability of offering much greater potential, value and benefit when they are founded on a deeper understanding and commitment.

To achieve this, we must approach partnerships with a different outlook. We must consider what we are giving, and stop thinking about taking. We must focus on the strengths we contribute, and not the weaknesses we wish to fill.

And, we must understand that partnerships are more than the end goal: the deal.Deeper partnerships are founded on people, purpose, possibility, process and product.

Deeper partnerships are founded on people, purpose, possibility, process and product.

PEOPLE

We may say companies enter into partnerships, but it is people who make them work. It is their desire to share expertise and resources, and to be open to exploration and understanding.

In coming together, the participants demonstrate leadership for the whole and a willingness to ‘own’ the partnership. It is their conviction that the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

PURPOSE

The purpose is to understand the why of the partnership: to share resources; to increase economies of scale; to launch a new production. Each party will naturally want to focus on their own goals and needs, but the deeper partnership will consider the collective goals.

POSSIBILITIES 

This is where the partners consider the multiple ways in which they will contribute to the partnership: the level of their responsibilities, and the range of their investments, and degree of their risk. This is their ‘skin in the game’ commitment.

PROCESS

Strategy, planning, and measurements are important, as are qualities of transparency, adaptability and nimbleness. Because we start with people, communications are key, as are collective listening, understanding and appreciation.

Just as there will be shared responsibilities, there needs to be shared credit as well. This is the ability to think beyond oneself and consider the larger context. This is trust.

PRODUCT

The product is, of course, what likely brought the partners together. But by developing a deeper partnership founded on people, purpose, possibilities, and process, the product will have much greater meaning and lasting richness.

THE TAKEAWAY

As resources become scarcer, partnerships will likely define those nonprofit arts organizations that survive in the future. Partnerships have the ability to serve the immediate and obvious need. Partnerships, approached with a different mindset and fuller commitment, also have the ability to offer the partners much greater meaning and lasting richness. More than just the end goal, the deepest partnerships are the sum of people, purpose, possibility, process and product.

Inspiration and further reading:

Fostering Collaboration Through Common Language (link)
Strategic Alliances (link)
Essential Mindset Shifts For Collective Impact (link) 

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