Learning, Reflective Practice

Brokering

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Balancing the art and science of partnership brokering

The degree and level of how partnership brokers use aspects of art and science in their interventions is often driven by individual preferences. This month Netherlands-based Rita Dieleman invites us to identify our predominant side and to allow more space for the less commanding one to emerge.

Deeply rooted in scientific thinking, Rita consciously challenged herself to explore more art-guided approaches in her collaborative practice – with rewarding results.

Some people are by nature more ‘science’ persons, others have more characteristics of the ‘art’ side of brokering. This paper describes the journey of an external evaluator who is usually quite results-oriented, focusing on facts, analysing, puzzling, keeping her eye on the ball and pushing for progress. The author explores the art-side of brokering in her work and how she came to appreciate it more. This shift in approach also resulted in a shift in sense of ownership, from the individual broker to all partners involved.

Read Rita Dieleman’s paper here and share your science and art practices via Twitter using #partnershipbrokers.

The duality of partnership brokering on behalf of the private sector

In December we invited Mary Frankham to share her superb paper on dual roles for partnership brokers, which examines the tension between being a partnership manager whilst also representing a voice independent from all partners involved.

Following on to this topic, we are now presenting you with another excellent think piece on the issue of duality of partnership brokering.

In this edition of Stories from Practice, Australia based Gillian Pearl builds on her experience of cross-sector partnerships with companies like Microsoft, Visa and Facebook. She compares and contrasts the roles of internal partnership brokers and project managers by exploring the similarities and differences in the skill sets and how these are applied. The paper also looks at two key challenges many internal partnership brokers grapple with: a lack of awareness and perceived value of partnership brokering.

The author has spent the past twenty years working for and with the private sector and in this paper, she highlights her observations about the dual role that internal private sector partnership brokers must play when engaging in cross-sector partnerships. Internal partnership brokers are often expected to be both project manager and internal partnership broker and move fluidly between the roles.  The paper focuses on the three key areas:  the skill set required to perform both roles simultaneously; the way to address the lack of awareness and perceived value of the brokering role and; the ways to promote a better understanding of partnership brokering principles and skills.

Read Gillian Pearl’s paper here and share your comments via Twitter using #partnershipbrokers.

Collaboration in disaster recovery

This edition of Stories from Practice takes us to Nepal where in spring 2015 devastating earthquakes killed thousands of people and destroyed over 750,000 homes and vital infrastructure.

Arthi Patel was appointed by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs to support the UNDP in their provision of humanitarian disaster relief. The paper outlines how Arthi, in her role as donor representative and partnership broker, helped the earthquake recovery project to succeed amidst the urgency of delivering rapid relief action and tensions between partner organisations.

In the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquakes Arthi worked for DFAT and UNDP to assist 14,000 micro-entrepreneurs recover their livelihoods. This was a high-pressure environment with strained relationships and high expectations. Arthi fostered an adaptive management approach, and with the support of her PBA mentor trialled different forms of brokering, collaboration and reflection. A focus on a higher purpose of recovery for micro-entrepreneurs helped people to break through bureaucratic and institutional hurdles. The paper describes how collaborative practice was fostered and came to be valued by all parties in a pressured environment.

Read Arthi Patel’s paper here and share your comments via Twitter using #partnershipbrokers. 

Deepening awareness in brokering to grow the quality and impact of partnering processes

Join us in this edition of Stories from Practice to explore together with Mariana Merelo Lobo how partnering processes will benefit from bringing awareness and presence into the collective collaborative space, and which practices to adopt to systematically cultivate awareness in oneself, partners and the collaborative field.

During her PBA Accreditation period, Mariana was based in Tanzania for Action Against Hunger working with organisations and individuals, including holistic health practitioners, local non-governmental and governmental organisations, INGOs, and the UN. What emerged from her partnership brokering practice at the time, was the idea to develop and explore collaborative spaces through awareness.

Based on the insight that by expanding our awareness – of the self, of the relationships, and of the wider system – collaborative processes achieve better results, this paper is focused on the importance of action-reflective practice in partnership brokering. This implies that a partnership broker must apply her or himself to three dimensions: subjective, objective, and inter-relational. Partnership brokers are part of a collaborative system; and therefore they have the responsibility (and opportunity) to do better to expand the collective (and generative) intelligence of collaborative efforts. This paper proposes an emergent way to developing and exploring a dedicated partnership brokering field – that approach is called Awareness Express.

Read Mariana Merelo Lobo’s paper here.

If you would like to share your comments with the author or us please email learning@partnershipbrokers.org, or perhaps tweet about it using #partnershipbrokers and following us @PBA_Brokers.

New paper: How ‘tactical agency’ can be useful when navigating complexity

We are starting the new year with an invitation to reflect on your partnership practice by diving into experiences and insights from other partnership brokers in our series Stories from Practice.

Shahina Bahar embarked on her PBA Accreditation journey in 2015 when she worked as an internal broker for a large international humanitarian organisation, at a time where the humanitarian sector saw significant shifts in the external environment as part of reforms and localisation agenda.

In her paper Shahina introduces the idea of “tactical agency” as a strategy to navigate complexity in a partnership. She explores how advancing or withdrawing different aspects of her role, according to the situation and perceived needs of the partnership, may create more space, visibility, legitimacy and traction for a partnership broker.

The paper reflects on the brokering identity and how ‘tactical agency’, linked to notions of identity and awareness of opportunities and constraints in an operating environment, can be a useful strategy when navigating complexity. The paper provides examples of how tactical agency highlights the interplay of the broker as a change agent/actor; the partnership (phases, considerations, different models) and the external environment in which these partnerships operate as well as the tactical agency that partners exercise themselves. It can be a valuable device on how to traverse the ‘grey zone’ drawing from learning within the humanitarian sector.

Read Shahina Bahar’s paper here. If you would like to share your comments with the author or us, please email learning@partnershipbrokers.org, or tweet about your views and experiences using #partnershipbrokers.

New paper: Intuition as an art of partnership brokering

In September we launched a new knowledge sharing initiative – Stories from Practice – publishing compelling papers which examine the realities of partnership brokering, and how practitioners navigate these to help partnerships progress and achieve transformation. These papers have been created by alumni of the PBA Accreditation Programme as part of their learning journey.

Continuing the launch theme of the art & science of partnership brokering, we have invited PBA Accreditation alumni Kate Hayes to share her paper which reflects on intuition as the art of brokering.

This paper argues that partnership brokering can be strengthened through both a science and an art orientation and explores how creative discernment – intuition – has been critical to the author’s art of brokering.  Throughout the partnership process the broker is responsible for shape-shifting from coach to facilitator to mediator to challenger to finisher. This shape shifting requires active and rational discernment. At key transition points in the partnering process, however, the author also learnt the value of ceding the rational and the scientific to allow her intuition to instruct and to inform.  Two case studies are provided that illustrate how at certain times a different way of seeing and discerning – an intuitive way – can lead to surprising and positive outcomes for the partnerships at hand.

Read Kate Hayes’ paper here. If you would like to share your comments with the author or us, please email learning@partnershipbrokers.org.

What do Partnership Brokers Do? An enquiry into practice

To coincide with the launch of the Association, we have published a comprehensive report into the role of partnership brokers in multi-stakeholder collaborations. This brings together the practical experiences of 250 accredited partnership brokers and seeks to help both partnership brokers and the wider partnering community to better understand the partnership broker’s role in building and maintaining effective, efficient and innovative partnerships.

The enquiry finds that partnership brokers can make a difference to partnerships in two key ways:

  1.  By helping partners address typical partnering challenges
  2. By improving a partnership’s efficiency, effectiveness and innovation

‘What do Partnership Brokers do?’ uses brokers’ personal reflections on their practical experiences of partnership brokering to draw out what the most common roles they play are, and what challenges they face.

Some of the key findings are that brokers:

  • Spend considerable time on relationship-building and relationship management.
  • Exercise a range of specific skills that also demonstrate approaches that partners can adopt and use themselves.
  • Assist partnerships by pulling partners together when they fall out with each other and by pushing them to achieve more.
  • See real value in becoming more ‘reflective’ in the way they approach their work.
  • Have a need to balance effective, valuable input and potential dependency on them.

This research starts the ball rolling in assisting a greater understanding of the role of a Partnership Broker. The vignettes from brokers in their own words convey a real need for effective brokering – if partnerships truly are to achieve their ambitious goals. There is more work to be done, and we invite brokers to share their experiences with the partnering community to continue the quest for learning.

 

Download the enquiry here

Meeting the challenge of Post PBAS Level 2 – the role of critical friends

By Carmel Vandermolen

Carmel Vandermolen

This is a story of two people who live over 2000 kilometres from each other, but despite the distance have become very important ‘critical friends’ in both a personal manner and as Partnership Brokers.  These two critical friends have both had to deal with the challenges of post PBAS – the Partnership Brokers Accreditation Scheme which is the Level 2 option for practitioners seeking accreditation

This journey starts in September of 2010 when these two critical friends meet for the first time while attending the Level 1 training, and like many before them had a whole new world open up to them.  Now for everyone who has been lucky enough to participate in the Level 1 training you will know that part of the program is to set you up with a critical friend to support you in reviewing your action plans developed during the training for implementation upon return to your work.  While neither of these critical friends was purposefully set up in the training, the connection that was made meant that it happened anyway.

These critical friends have since completed PBAS Level 2 training, one at the end of 2010, and the other at the start of 2011.  The PBAS Level 2 training comes with a very knowledgeable and supportive mentor who helps you question and improve your skills in the area of partnership broking.  Over the three month period of PBAS the connection made with the mentor and the support that is provided goes a long way to improving both your skills and confidence.  And then comes that black hole at the end of the three months when the training finishes and you no longer have access to the wonderful mentor and the big question of “how do I keep up the important practices that I have developed and implemented in the last three months?”

One of these important practices is the development and use of a log book that helps you to identify patterns and supports you to evaluate your own skills.  What is improving?, where could I improve?, what went wrong that time?  All the important reflective practice skills put into a format that can help you to expand your brokering skills.  After getting used to having to write up and submit a log book, now you have no need to for a training purpose, but for a growth purpose and to continually learn and improve there is every need.  But life gets busy, you skip a week, you have more meetings this week than you can handle, you skip another week of the log book.  Soon you realise that you have not used it for over a month, and then it is so much harder to get back into it even though you know how beneficial it is for both yourself and the partnership(s) that you are involved with.

Roxanne Hodda

Then comes another important teleconference with your critical friend, and a discussion that is focused on the same issue, how to deal with the challenge of maintaining your reflective practice after completing PBAS!  In the discussion between the critical friends an idea forms, and then the idea turns into action.  The idea is in the form of reporting to each other at the end of each month, in just one page, of the challenges and successes faced in that month.  The information should come from your log book that you have kept over that month.  No longer do you have your mentor from the Level 2 training, but you do have each other and a commitment to each other to be the best you can be.  And to be that important someone in another’s partnership life that can be that support for both the good and bad times, for the frustrations and the highlights when it all goes right.

The role of a critical friend can never be overlooked, and in meeting the challenges of post PBAS Level 2 it can be essential in making sure you get the best out of the training you have just completed.

Carmel says thank goodness I have Roxanne as Roxanne says thank goodness I have Carmel.

To be continued….