Partnering with other organizations and agencies is primarily how Big Love Little Hearts achieves our mission. Even now as we are setting up a country program in the Philippines, we are doing so in partnership with two other organizations.
My best advice and best practices are:
Research: Invest time learning about what other organizations are doing in your cause field, both specific and broad (ex. in my case, congenital heart defects specifically and global health broadly) and where they’re doing it. Then invest some more time learning about what completely unrelated NPO’s, NGO’s and agencies are doing in the part of the world you’re working in. Lack of a unified and central database to access this information makes this an endless task, so spend a little bit of time each day doing it. [calling again for some division of our government to take this project on]
Practice Patience: You have an urgent case and you need help from another organization. You contact them, a couple days go by, you don’t hear from them so you contact them again. With marked impatience. Of course your needs are vital to you, just like the needs of the organization you’re contacting are vital to them. Which means at least momentarily, they’re more important than yours. When you’re the one who needs the partnership more try to take that attitude with you into every interaction.
Listen: To that end, listen to what their needs may be, what their limitations are, and for strengths & services you might not have known they had. Always try to collaborate and partner in a way that benefits both organizations instead of being a drain of one and a boost to the other.
Ask: Ask for everything you hope to achieve with their help, and if they can’t help you ask them if they know who can. I can’t stress this enough. Not everyone volunteers information, even volunteers!
Be Flexible: Especially when partnering with other organizations to fill service gaps, flexibility is key. Don’t close the door on a potential partner just because they can’t help you in the exact way you envisioned this time around. They might be a tremendous partner in the future!
Have An Army of Volunteer Translators: Most of my best practices are really principles of good communication. If you don’t speak the language of the country you’re doing work in, make sure you have on-call translator to ensure what you’re trying to communicate is being understood correctly and that you understand what is being said back to you. All of the above are useless if language is a barrier.
I hope that helps, xxxxx – I’m certainly no expert but it’s been a part of my daily experience for years.
content category: Best practices & lessons learned