How Does Partnering Work

Though all partnering efforts and collaborative initiatives are different, there seems to be some common processes, principles, and best practices. The following seeks to summarize some of those.

Stage One Activities: Identify (Laying the foundation of partnering)

  • The exploration stage will likely take longer than you think! If at all possible, the process should never be forced.
  • Research and identify possible key players for the partnering effort. Who are the influential leaders?
  • Cast vision about possible outcomes of the collaboration perhaps by showing the success of others that are doing similar work
  • Identify any key potential challenges that may need to be specifically addressed sooner rather than later

Key objective of this stage: Relationship and trust building – LISTEN to each other!!

  • Identify a possible facilitator or, if you can be the facilitator, locate additional members of a group that can advise you and the effort – sometimes called a facilitation team
  • Aim at bringing together face to face these key players that could possibly form the core of the organizing or facilitation team
  • While trying to be as inclusive as possible, keep expectations realistic as to the number of churches and/or ministries who might be involved at the beginning

Key Best Practices and Principles of the Identify Stage:

  • Results-oriented partnering takes time to develop. Do not try and short cut the process
  • Results-oriented partnering emphasize what they can do together well before putting structure together. The architectural principle of “form follows function” needs to be followed
  • Results-oriented partnering has a facilitator and/or a facilitation team. Collaborative initiatives do not just happen; they take a person and/or a team of people committed to serve the wider group
  • Results-oriented partnering efforts have clear purpose & outcomes; partnership for partnership sake spells failure
  • Results-oriented partnering is built on relationships of trust, openness and mutual concern. Collaboration is more than just joint coordination and planning

Stage Two Activities: Solidify (Launching the partnering effort)

  • Continue to emphasize and work on relationships
  • Allow for significant prayer time with each other and ask specifically for God’s wisdom and direction

Key objective of this stage: convene an “exploration” meeting, where opportunities to partner can be discussed. However, don’t call a meeting too soon or try to do too much when gathered

  • Continue to be inclusive as possible – try and allow for wide participation. Don’t be afraid of differences; acknowledge and celebrate diversity while emphasizing what you have in common
  • Work on role identification and team building among the core group of organizers, but realize that sometimes core decisions need to be made and affirmed by the wider group. Allow partners as much access as possible to the decision-making process through consensus building.
  • Establish possible working groups around agreed upon priorities and identify specific steps to address them (action plans). If possible, set dates, draft timetables and assign personal responsibility
  • The facilitator and/or facilitation team plays a crucial role at this stage keeping things held together and communicating among the partners

Key Best Practices and Principles of the Solidify Stage

  • Results-oriented partnering seeks God’s direction in all they do. Never underestimate the power of prayer
  • Results-oriented partnering efforts have defined objectives. In the beginning these need to be limited and achievable. Do not try to do too much too soon
  • Results-oriented partnering focuses on what the partners have in common rather than on areas of difference
  • Results-oriented partnering maintains a high level of participation and ownership by the partners
  • Results-oriented partners have clear identities and visions. Partners who have a strong sense of their own identity are the ones who most likely will be the most valuable players

Stage Three Activities: Let it Fly (Managing the work of partnering)

  • Communication is the lifeblood of partnering – keep it flowing.
  • An on-going leadership or facilitation team should be affirmed or appointed to provide training opportunities, mentoring of working group facilitators, and cultivation of new partners. Note: this could be a different group of people than the group that explored and launched the effort.
  • Keep the vision and the goals up front and before all.

Key objective of this stage: always evaluate what you are doing and look for ways to make things even better. Establish an on-going process to evaluate the success and lessons learned from your activities.

  • Be flexible so as to adjust and adapt things as needed. There is no formula or one way to do it.
  • Identify key resources and potential new partners so that on-going work maintains momentum. Set up orientation for new partners.

Key Best Practices and Principles of the Let it Fly Stage

  • Results-oriented partners recognize that the development of partnering is an on-going process, not an event. It is often more challenging to maintain partnering initiatives than to launch them.
  • Results-oriented partnering keeps looking at the ultimate vision. It is easy to focus on the “means” rather than the “end”. Focus on the long-term vision and do not get overly distracted by the day-to-day operational demands.
  • Results-oriented partnering imparts the vision and skills for partnering to all the partners continuously. Expect problems and develop a process for dealing with and managing them.
  • Results-oriented partnering does not come free. Just participating costs time and money so all partners are investing in some way. Deeper commitment involves even greater investment, but show how the benefits outweigh these costs.
  • Results-oriented partnering infuses the value of shared success into the effort. This is the core principle of long-term effectiveness
  • Results-oriented partners have a designated “advocate” for partnering in their own organization.

Original – Brian F. O’Connell / 2016 Update – Alan Charter

Brian is a skilled partnering advocate – find out more at