Deciding on the Degree of Integration

Toddlers engage in parallel play. They don’t actually play together; they play side-by-side, each engaged in his or her own game, occasionally interacting with the other and modifying their behavior accordingly. As they grow older, children increasingly engage in integrated play, playing together with increasing levels of interaction all the way up through complex team-based games. Partners in a collaboration get to pick what kind of “play” works best for them. They can choose from across a spectrum from “parallel play” where the partners pursue a common objective under a single banner while essentially working separately with occasional check-ins to full integration acting as a unified team. There’s no right answer and partners can start with one and move to another. The important thing is to be explicit about it.

The figure below shows two different points on the spectrum of Partner Relationship Models. These models are two ends of a spectrum between which there can be lots of variants. The prime/sub model illustrates a relationship where one partner takes the lead and creates subsidiary relationships with other partners. These relationships can be formal (e.g., through sub-contracts or sub-grants) or they can be informal (e.g., through memoranda of understanding). The peer-based model illustrates a relationship in which no single entity has the lead. In both models, the backbone organization takes responsibility for coordinating across the various partners and with organizations in the broader community of interest as well as with donors and other stakeholders.

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