Whether voluntarily or by necessity, your organization will build relationships with a range of entities.
Organizations need support from others at different times, for different reasons.
There are situations when organizations should work together, particularly when mutual benefit or greater external impact are possible. There are circumstances where organizations should not work together, especially when the costs or risks of doing so outweigh any benefits.
Before moving forward on any opportunity, organizations deserve to know as much as possible about who’s involved and what to expect.
- Determine how much of this opportunity is about your organization, its current work and priorities, and its stakeholders. Is this about the interests of an individual, a board member, leadership, team members, a client or constituent? Is this a favor extended as a courtesy towards another organization?
- Identify the nature of the proposal. What is the logic behind the offer, and the business case for proceeding?
- Consider the source of the request and their history with your organization. Does this opportunity reflect a deeper connection with an existing partner, or a new relationship with a different entity?
- Review the reputation of any additional organizations that will be involved. Is the opportunity based on volume (growing the number of participants); scale (bringing more parties into an ongoing process); scope (adding diverse capacities into a framework for action)?
- Weigh the timing of opportunity, and schedule of activity. Does it conflict with your team’s work or organization’s commitments? Does it help your team reach its goals sooner, or enhance your organization’s ability to achieve its priorities more effectively?
- Identify the target outcomes, and how success will be measured. Is it about change, growth, improvement, or stability? Is this a financial, operational, polcy, or learning opportunity?
What seems simple (and obvious) can easily get lost among impulse, emotion, and different (if not conflicting) visions of which opportunities are “good”, “right”, and “most beneficial”.
Ask as many questions as possible.
When your organization ignores the dynamics behind its relationships, it operates from a position of uncertainty, with the inability to navigate what’s necessary for its success.
When your organization knows the dynamics behind its relationships, it operates from a position of clarity, with the ability to attract quality, to contribute actively, and to create possibility.
Ask as many questions as needed.
How organizations define their expectations, express their intentions, and deliver on their potential — regardless of their partner role and abilities — reflects their fundamental values and core principles as much as their resources and capacities.
How your organization requests to work with others — or responds to similar requests from other organizations— underscores your value as an organization. Make certain that all parties involved know, understand, appreciate that value for all that it is worth.
Ensure your organization can make the best decision possible.
Knowing where your organization is coming from, in terms of interests, helps your organization to stay oriented towards its best interests, in times of opportunity as well as uncertainty.