Tips on Developing a Great Partnership
- Summer spirit: Successful summer enrichment programs are creative and vital and are developed according to the principles of youth development. Successful summer program staff have positive, solution-oriented attitudes. Similarly, successful partnerships will embrace this spirit, with all partners focused on meeting the needs of the youth and families that are at the heart of the program
- Be informed: Understand and know your partner. Research their mission, goals, and activities. Find out about their organizational culture so that you have a sense of how they work. Are they part of a bureaucracy with rules, regulations, and a system to work within? Are they more informal with a flexible and spontaneous working culture? Also, help your partner learn about you, and prepare some background information to give to your partner when you meet.
- Time to plan: Start planning your partnership several months before summer begins so that you have time to get to know your partner and plan effectively. All partnerships need time for ideas to percolate, for resources to be assigned, and activities to be planned successfully.
- Involve staff: Involve staff in planning the partnership and inform them about the reasons for partnering so that they understand the value of the partnership and have buy-in. This will also help ensure that the partnership stays relevant to your organization. As a starting point, use information in the section "Why partner?" to educate staff on why you're partnering.
- Make the connection: At the start of the partnership, bring key staff members together face-to-face. Involving too many people may mean that the meeting loses focus, but successful meetings will involve representatives from all levels of the partnership, from the staff who work day-to-day with the community, to the decision-makers who guide the direction of the project. You may not need everyone at all meetings, but holding an early face-to-face introduction and idea-sharing can be vital to getting new partnerships started. At the beginning of your partnership, ensure that all decision-makers are informed and on board.
- Be prepared: Before your first meeting, think about how you would like to partner. What can you bring to the partnership and what would you like your partner to contribute? How will the partnership benefit the community and both organizations? Be ready to hear what your partner thinks about these questions and get input from staff.
- Good communication is the key to every effective partnership.
- If possible, nominate one person to be responsible for liaising
with your partner to help streamline communications. This person should
be able to report back communications to your own staff members
- Ensure that the right people are connected with the right people
and that everyone has up-to-date contact information. This includes
making sure that the site coordinator knows which librarian to contact
and vice versa.
- Early on, establish what your shared goals are for the partnership and be sure that everyone is committed to achieving them.
- Always be clear about your expectations and what you can and
can't give to the partnership. Listen to your partner so that you hear
what their expectations and level of commitment are.
- Come to the table with a solution-oriented approach, and try to
be creative and to think outside the box when attempting to surmount any
challenges posed by the partnership.
- During meetings, be respectful of other people's time: arrive promptly and keep discussion to the issues at hand.
- After meetings, follow up with a brief email confirming what you
heard during the conversation to help ensure that everyone is on the
- Stay in regular touch with your partner and provide updates to
your partner, staff, and colleagues on how the partnership is
- If you see challenges arising, be sure to communicate and discuss them right away so that you have time to solve any problems.
- Be friendly and approachable and make time for your partner so that they feel comfortable contacting and talking to you.
- Remember to communicate the results of your partnership to your
stakeholders and the community at large. Take photos and video to help
tell the story of your partnership effectively, and develop a strategy
for disseminating your results.
Setting and Meeting Expectations
- Communicate your expectations clearly, listen to your partner's
expectations, and if you have differences, be prepared to try to find
the middle ground.
- To avoid confusion as the partnership progresses, it can be
beneficial to draw up a partnership agreement early on. This might be as
simple as a memorandum of understanding about the terms of the
agreement and shared goals, or a list of expectations and activities.
- Wherever possible, keep to the plans and timelines you set with
your partner. If you need to alter your plans, be sure to give your
partner as much notice as possible.
- Always remember that life happens, and when you're working with
another organization you need to be flexible and be ready to
- Be responsive to your partner and respect the time commitments that the other person is making.
- Thank and acknowledge your partner, both privately and publicly, for the contribution they have made to the shared project.
- Make time for a debriefing to discuss what went well and lessons learned.
- Publicize any great results from your partnership.
- Keep your partner up-to-date with what's happening at your
organization; get on your partner's mailing list and follow what they're
- If you both saw value in the partnership, make plans to continue
working together. Librarians and summer enrichment staff often continue
to serve the same kids and families through the year. The most valuable
relationships will be those that continue through the year, and develop
and deepen over time.