Publication: Kyouodo no Sekkei (The design of the Partnership)


・What’s important when creating partnerships

Partnerships are an important approach for solving social issues, ensuring an appropriate division of roles among diverse parties and enabling mutual cooperation between parties on an equal footing. Instead of traditional initiatives driven separately by public sectors, private sectors or civil societies, there are more partnerships where parties can leverage each other’s strengths and realize synergies.
However, partnerships comprising diverse organizations bring specific difficulties.
Processes should therefore be designed to overcome differences in organizational cultures and deal with new issues. The following four design elements are useful when creating partnership approaches. These elements do not stand alone but are interrelated.

Topic 1. Involvement of relevant parties

Which stakeholders should be involved in a partnership? Ideally, a partnership would include the maximum number of relevant stakeholders. Stakeholders might be people closely related to the issue, such as producers for industry-related projects or people from schools for education-related projects. But by also enlisting stakeholders not immediately recognizable as being relevant, you gain a more varied perspective that can sometimes achieve breakthroughs. For issues old and new, there may be limits to what existing relationships can achieve, so bringing in a wider range of perspectives and specialist fields can improve effectiveness.
At the same time, it is essential that individual feelings be considered. Communication tends to be easier among a homogenous group of people, but that may make it more difficult to achieve breakthroughs. It may also lock out people who might be troublesome, but that only results in the partnership losing its social license and legitimacy. If past friction or relationships make it difficult to get a party involved at the outset, it may be possible to encourage participation through an intermediary, or participation not from an organization level but from a more accessible level such as a personal relationship or observer.

Topic 2. Becoming a relevant presence

Why would someone become involved in a partnership? Naturally, only those with an interest in the partnership would want to participate. Partnerships that do attract participation have relevant issues to address, they have diversity among their members, they employ unique solutions, and they have advanced ideas. By gaining a unique position in a region or business field, a partnership will attract other relevant topics, and participation of people.
In reality, there are often many associations and local residential organizations that deal with similar subjects. If that happens, segregation of the organizations can be an effective way to proceed. Identify your own area of operation to help differentiate between the different organizations. It can be useful to think about which part of the whole solution you are dealing with. However, this approach is difficult to implement alone, so it is critical that you create opportunities for incorporating third-party opinions and for always reassessing your current situation.

Topic 3. Sharing the basic principles

What should you base your partnership on? Diversity of members can be an asset and also a weakness of partnerships. Specific guidance is needed to overcome the differences in culture and customs of each participating organization and allow collaboration. Clarifying the factors that enable different groups to join together can provide the peace of mind that allows for a fair exchange of opinions, while emphasizing the independence of each participant. Depending on the partnership, this might be expressed in the form of rules, directions or something else.
At the same time, basic principles such as these can be useful for directing a partnership. The more you discuss an issue, the less likely it is that you will be able to remain neutral. And subconsciously looking down on opinions other than your own, or guiding the discussion in your own direction will create a level of distrust within the partnership. Opportunities to return to such high-level management concepts will produce results. A decision-making process that constantly checks against the guiding principles will prevent unnecessary hierarchies from developing.
You should start by documenting even the obvious things. Going forward, you should also remember to ask whether you have veered away from agreed principles, or even whether the principles themselves need revision.

Topic 4. Guaranteeing transparency

How do you keep everyone happy and involved? Partnerships involve continual consensus building. Given that partnerships are not some arbitrary act taken by a single group, all related processes must be kept transparent. Otherwise, there is a risk of alienating dissatisfied participants if decision-making and events are conducted in a black box.
This is why it is important to incorporate procedures for winning over relevant people, from prior notification to reports of each and every meeting in the partnership process. For example, if it is known in advance that no decisions will be taken at a particular meeting, then preliminary planning and brain-storming can be conducted without being concerned about members who will not attend. Alternatively, if decisions will be taken, opinions can be obtained from absentees prior to the meeting.
Maintaining external transparency and leaving activities open may also have the effect of attracting other potential stakeholders. You should also establish external contact points and spokespersons while maintaining courtesy internally and making decisions together, including the act of deciding how to make the decisions. Activities themselves can also act as a billboard for the partnership, so over time the necessary people will participate of their own accord.


Publisher: Global Environment Outreach Centre
Language: Japanese
Publication Date: 2017/02