Betwixt & Between

Issue #5

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Welcome to the fifth issue of the Journal of Partnership Brokering!

The content in this Issue continues our search for evidence of the role partnership brokers play in helping partners deliver effective outcomes. Through their personal and professional perspectives and experiences, we are able to relish the diversity that exists within the partnership brokering world.

Diversity is the main theme in Marcia Dwonczyk’s article, where she argues that it is an essential ingredient for collaboration efforts and can add value when dealing with complex issues which transformational partnerships seek to address. Acknowledging that diversity is not without its process, cultural or behavioural challenges, she goes on to explore how partnership brokers can effectively involve diversity in partnering. Marcia poses an interesting question around whether we are truly willing to be taken out of our comfort zones and have our preconceptions, assumptions and ways of working to be challenged

In her article, Chelsea Waite describes one particular case of contextual adaptation. Her starting point was to assess whether the Partnering Cycle (developed by The Partnering Initiative) would fit the needs of small, fast-moving organisations involving few partners with more obvious commonalities and short timelines. Chelsea describes the streamlined Partnering Cycle, along with the tools and strategies, she has developed as an internal broker to fit the pace of her partnership’s work.

Rafal Serafin’s article provides insights into how partnership brokering can be a catalyst for change and innovation. He describes a case study from the Malopolska region in Poland where partnership brokering is playing a central role in shortening the food supply chain by organising farmers and small food producers into a collaborating and self-organising partnership which can provide locally-produced quality food at scale and in a systematic and sustained way. The Malopolska initiative has relevance for other markets, where smallholders and family farms are the predominant form of agriculture but have little or no access to markets, resources or systemic influence. Partnership brokering can help organise such farmers, consumers and other stakeholders in food systems into collaborating groups or partnerships which address such challenges.

In her article, Marisa Vojta focuses on what organisations need to do better and different in terms of being able to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be adopted by the international community in September 2015.  She argues that INGOs will need to move away from a top-down, donor-driven, solution-delivery focused approach to development to become better partners. This will test their capacity to shift organisational cultures and approaches to development towards a more open, flexible and adaptive way of working. This suggests major organisational transformation in staff competencies, knowledge as well as attitudes and behaviours to negotiate, build and manage effective collaborations. Marisa draws on five core competencies, adapted from World Vision’s Advanced Partnering Competencies Framework (March 2015) and aligned with the broadly recognised partnering cycle, to illustrate how applying them would  help development practitioners achieve such an outcome.

Kenze Ndamukenze’s article highlights the challenges resulting from partner diversity and established ways of working. He shares his brokering experiences of working with the Dutch Consortium for Rehabilitation (DCR), which has established the Pamoja project to implement its plans for recovery of (post-) conflict zones in six African countries. It created an internal unit for consortium coordination where Kenze was assigned the role of a coordinator. He describes the challenges he faced in this role, especially in terms of managing “ambiguity around the role of consortium coordination”.

In many respects, Kenze’s experience is not unique. Multi-stakeholder collaboration often brings together people with different skills, outlooks and personalities from sometimes dramatically different organisational and social cultures. This influences their organisational and cultural adaptability to shape and nurture the culture of their emerging partnership. It certainly poses some interesting questions about the role the partnership broker may play in this process: how do we engage partners in understanding better their respective organisational cultures and how that could influence the design, development and management of their partnership arrangement and its emerging organisational culture? In my article, I draw on a particular case where I had an opportunity to explore the cultural dimension of an emerging corporate-NGO partnership, to describe an ethnographic enquiry approach which addresses this question. It is very much an opener in the discussion on a partnership brokers’ role – we would be keen to hear your views on the subject, including examples of approaches you might have used in facilitating the cultural dialogue and understanding.

The diversity of the insights and experiences shared in this issue of the Journal all add to our knowledge of what partnership brokers as managers of the partnering process do: they wear multiple hats and perform a range of roles as leaders, business managers, change agents, coaches, connectors, healers, innovators and much more.

This Issue: