Anecdote about the Greater Washington Health Care Workforce Alliance
One story, of a partnership working on achieving one result, in one place.
And if you walk away from these sessions knowing three things I hope that it’s:
1. Cross-sector partnerships are really different than organizations. Whereas organizations are clear about who’s in charge, and employees can’t just stop showing up and be considered part of an organization, these things are muddier in cross-sector partnerships. And thus they need to be structured and behave differently if they are going to be successful.
2. There’s no right way to build a partnership—I can’t give you a recipe. It’s dependent on the place and the people and culture and the problem that you’re trying to solve and the result you’re trying to achieve.
3. There are structural and behavioral things, that if you embed them into your partnership, they will help support your success. So, I think this session is really about introducing you to those, and generating possible ways that site teams could take home and try out to see if it works to get their partnership to the place where it does have trust, it does have a problem-solving orientation.
This session has 2 parts.
Part 1 is going to focus on introducing you to what Living Cities has been learning about high-performing cross-sector partnerships, and give you a chance to work in your site teams try and figure out how those ideas apply to you.
Our hunch is that as you go through thinking about how this applies in your work—you’ll have lots of questions about how to do things.
Then we’re going to try an experiment—as session called “The Room is Your Panel.” It’s a chance to ask questions about how you might try to do things in your own site. An example—what types of activities have you found are helpful for building trust among representatives in your partnership? For all the questions, you’ll have the panelists, or anyone else in the room, as your thought partners to generate some ideas.
There will be a second group exercise and then some wrap up.
Take 5 minutes and on the sticky notes in front of you, write down at least 5 answers—1 per sticky--to each of the questions below.
When you are done, take your sticky notes to the wall, and take a couple of minutes to see what others wrote. (10 minutes)
If your idea is similar to someone else’s, put your sticky note near theirs.
If you like someone else’s idea, star it and keep it in mind!
Popcorn Questions This is a facilitation technique where the facilitator asks participants a barrage of questions, seeking short-quick answers, rather than long-winded responses. Popcorn questions are a good technique to get ideas flowing, to encourage wider participation from members of the group who are less likely to speak up and to build energy as a big group at the beginning of a session.
Complex social and economic problems are not the product of one sector, but of complex systems made up of actors and institutions from across sectors. As a result, solving these problems is dependent on these actors and institutions working together. Building a cross-sector partnership where there is trust, resilience, and an ongoing commitment to problem-solving – the kind of cross-sector partnerships necessary to achieve their goals – is really hard work. And while while there aren’t graduate programs in it (yet) there are other examples and people to learn from.
The term cross-sector partnership is often used to describe an array of activities involving representatives from multiple sectors.
These diverse activities have all been labeled with the term “cross-sector partnership” not because they share strategies or goals, but rather because of who is involved with them: representatives from two or more sectors including business, government, nonprofits, philanthropy, labor, and/or communities.
Often, partnerships are viewed like Noah’s Ark, you need 2 of every animal!
We’d like to offer a different way to think about the membership of cross-sector partnerships, which we call the interest-based frame.
Instead of thinking about these efforts as alliances of organizations that require representation from different sectors, they should be thought of as alliances of organizations that together have a role in solving a problem and achieving a shared goal.
In addition to using the interest-based frame to help you identify who should be involved in your work, it also is a useful tool to help you think about what model of cross-sector partnership you should be employing.
So, this is something that I think is really important to point out—there are many models of cross-sector partnership. Some have been named and described—like collective impact (which you heard about from Jen Juster when you got together in SF) and some haven’t. But, we’ve been thinking a lot about what distinguishes these models—and there are many things—but two have jumped out that I want you to keep in mind today. How much the partners have to change their own behavior And where the benefit of achieving the result accrues.
No matter the model of cross-sector collaboration you’re employing, it can be done well or not not (as we saw during the ideation exercise).
Once you’re partnership is starting to come together, there are two ways that things can go.
And I think that our ideation exercise really reflects the difference between these two concepts: Co-blab-oration vs. Collaboration.
I love this idea—and I stole this chart from a guy named Chris Thompson who is helping build the capacity of folks in Northeast Ohio to take on complex social and economic problems.
So, by a show of hands, how many folks have been in a meeting that you’d characterize as co-blaboration? That’s a lot of us.
That’s a lot of the experience and not-so-great-associations and mindset, that your cross-sector partnership is going to have to overcome, reset, or set up differently.
And your cross-sector partnership is the place you can do it. So, we’re going to run through a couple of ideas and strategies.
These are patterns and behaviors that we’ve seen in other cross-sector partnerships which if you are conscious of from the beginning, are going to make the work a lot stronger in the long run.
Focused on outcomes!
Similar to building and maintaining trust, problem-solving is a necessary behavior that cross-sector partnerships must practice to advance their work.
In reality, though, we’ve observed that almost all partnerships are strong in some stages of the cycle and weaker in others. The tough work that the partnership has to do is to build the muscles and practices so that it is able to exhibit all the problem-solving cycle behaviors strongly. So what are these muscles and practices:
Problem-defining—what do we think is wrong? (these are assumptions or hypotheses that you are testing Interpreting & hypothesizing—what do we need to change? Solution-finding-implementing potential solutions Analyzing & reflecting—determining if these solutions are reflective? And if not, what does this tell us about how we defined the problem?
One pattern we’ve observed in all types of cross-sector partnerships is weak “analyzing & reflecting” behaviors. It seems that relatively few partnerships have applied their time and intellectual rigor to determining if solutions are effective; if so, how they can be improved; and how that insight feeds back into their understanding of the problem they are trying to address. This behavior is imperative for the work of cross-sector partnerships implementing the principles of collective impact, because analyzing and reflecting are the foundation for continuous improvement.
So this one is a bit different than the other pieces, but it is something we’re beginning to explore more in our work.
In a cross-sector partnership, the reality is that you are going to have representatives with different levels of power, authority, and expertise.
Some of the work of the partnership might be to help build expertise, or authority, but there will be many decisions that get made within the partnership where these differences in power, authority & expertise mean that it will require different levels of involvement in the decision-making process.
This could be a whole 3 hour session unto itself, but I wanted to bring it up, to get you thinking about this. Because it begs 2 questions:
-how will your partnership figure out the appropriate level of involvement in decision-making? -who decides what that level is given any particular decision?
So, I just threw a lot of ideas at you, and now I want you to wrestle with it in your team. But before we do that, I want to see if there are any questions.
You will have ~45 minutes to work on this exercise which will focus on mapping out a structure, talking through how it will support the behaviors and alignments I just shared, where representatives plug in. Your site team is empowered to choose if you want to use this exercise to start building your cross-sector partnership structure from scratch, or build on the existing structure you already have. There might be things that you don’t have the answer to yet. Don’t worry—this is a chance to identify those things. Please capture them as questions, or even take time as a group to do some brainstorming about potential ideas. Even if you know where something will get done, but you’re looking for ideas of how to do it, write it down as a question! Don’t forget to select a scribe and a timekeeper. Be sure to capture your team’s answers on your easel pad!
If you have other questions—now is a great time to write ‘em down! We’re going to have a chunk of time to raise and discuss them with some special guests and others in the group in the next session!
Invitation to participate in this work as we continue to learn and develop the tools that staff and participants need to do this work.
Cross-Sector Partnerships 101: Structuring Your Cross-Sector Partnership So It Can Support Your Success
Cross-Sector Partnerships 101:
Structuring Your Cross-Sector Partnership
So It Can Support Your Success
Assistant Director of Knowledge & Impact, Living Cities
For the Presidio Institute Cross-Sector Leadership Fellows
1. Ideation Exercise
2. Living Cities’ thinking on cross-sector partnerships
3. Individual Exercise: Shaping your Partnership’s Structure
4. Pair Exercise: What questions does the group exercise
raise for you?
5. The Room is Your Panel!
7. Wrap Up!
1. What has worked well in cross-sector
partnerships you have participated in in the
2. What hasn’t worked in cross-sector
partnerships you participated in in the past?
What ideas stood out for you on
the idea board?
Why are we talking about
What model of cross-sector partnership
should you be using? (Beta Version)
Co-blab-oration vs. Collaboration
Source: Chris Thompson’s Regional Physics Blog
Focused on assigning blame or
Focused on outcomes
Stakeholders participate to
Stakeholders participate to
Opinions rule Data is king
Talk exceeds action
Actions emerge from
Informal process Intentional, rigorous process
The Bermuda Triangle
Cross-Sector Partnership Bermuda Triangle
Matrix of Alignment and Misalignment
Result Charge Level of Intervention Alignment?
General Thinking Program/Project Delivery Aligned
General Thinking Systems Change Misaligned
General Doing Program/Project Delivery Aligned
General Doing Systems Change Misaligned
General Thinking & Doing Program/Project Delivery Aligned
General Thinking & Doing Systems Change Misaligned
Specific Thinking Program/Project Delivery Misaligned
Specific Thinking Systems Change Misaligned
Specific Doing Program/Project Delivery Aligned
Specific Doing Systems Change Misaligned
Specific Thinking & Doing Program/Project Delivery Aligned
Specific Thinking & Doing Systems Change Aligned
Shaded boxes indicate crux of misalignment
What are 3+ strategies or activities that you
commit to doing before the next Fellows convening to
strengthen your cross-sector partnership?
Final Round Robin!
What is one thing that you commit to doing to
strengthen your cross-sector partnership’s
structure/behaviors before the next Fellows
3 Closing Thoughts
1. Collaboration, not co-blab-oration
2. There’s no recipe, you’re going to have to
develop one that works for your context and
3. Your partnership is more likely to succeed if
you’re clear about results, and intentional about
structure, representatives (and their differences),
vision, accountability, trust, & problem-solving.
Assistant Director of Knowledge & Impact
Twitter: @AKGold11, @Living_Cities #xsector