Partnership ≠ Collaboration

Partnership ≠ Collaboration

When faced with an opportunity, organizations will often say “we should partner!” or “we should collaborate!”. This is often true when the opportunity seems inaccessible to a single organization, or proves difficult to manage with existing resources. But what do these words mean? Does it even matter how your organization labels or categorizes the interactions and relationships in which it engages?

Yes, it matters. Why? Because the relationships your organization establishes with others reflects

  • the princples and values of your organization
  • the people, communities, and stakeholders invested in your organization’s success
  • your organization’s awarness of the field in which it operates
  • your organization’s knowledge of its reputation
  • your organization’s understanding of the value it delivers each and every day

Your organization will inevitably interact with other organizations. Sometimes these interactions will take place under competitive circumstances. Other times, these interactions will occur in the spirit of mutual support.

Partnerships are longer-term formal agreements among organizations with shared goals. The relationship assigns specific roles, and requires specific obligations, for each organization involved. Resources are combined, managed, and shared by organizations as equals. Each organization benefits relative to the level of resources it invests, amount of risk it navigates, and/or proportion of costs it assumes. When partnerships work, they make everyone happy. When they don’t, well…

Collaborations are shorter-term flexible arrangements among organizations with shared interests. Each organization maintains its respective sphere of activity, and manages its own resources. Roles are identified and responsibilities are assumed during the course of activity. All organizations involved benefit from access to something that is created or exchanged as a result of the relationship.

When circumstances are ideal, organizations are in a position to identify relationships that are useful to all partners and collaborators. The dynamics behind these relationships should also aim to deliver positive impact to the stakeholders and issues for which each organization works.

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