Making Partnership Work for You

Consider a tale of two partnerships. Both set out to tackle a big problem. Both unite companies big and small; national and local governments; and leaders from across civil society. Both have clearly written strategies, well-organized governance documents, and detailed metrics. One falters within a year of founding. The other goes on to lead a transformational conversation over decades. Why the difference?

Most multi-sector collaborations excel at vision and fail in execution. They suffer from a disconnect when the original altruistic vision meets the hard facts of the daily grind. A gap opens up between collective strategy formulation and collective strategy execution. Decades of research and experience have demonstrated that these initiatives need a component dedicated to collective strategy execution: a central operations center to maintain alignment, drive impact, and create continuous learning throughout the life of a collaboration.

A few decades ago, authors and business strategy researchers Robert Kaplan and David Norton recognized a strategy/execution gap in large companies. Similar to our observations about multi-sector partnerships, they observed how often companies excelled at articulating strategy but then failed in execution. They proposed a “Strategy Management Office” capable of coordinating execution and closing the gap.

We suggest adapting the SMO concept and creating a “Partnership Operations Center” (POC) to coordinate and close the strategy/execution gaps for multi-sector partnerships.

In our upcoming blog series, we’ll explore several of these major gaps and illustrate how a POC might address each one. Check back in to learn how the POC process and infrastructure will enable your partnership to bridge from altruistic vision to highly functional collaborative effort.


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The course actually aids with more than just collaboration - it helps drive thinking into issue clarification, meeting handling and setting up, communicating with stakeholders. I loved it! - CollaborateUp Academy Participant
The course was great! Great value and great insights into collaborating with various partners in multiple situations. It really change my thought process and how I view situations with our clients and stakeholders. - CollaborateUp Academy Participant
"The CollaborateUp Workshop gave our delegates a set of tools they can use immediately to collaborate more effectively across multiple departments and organizations." - Erika Lopez, Global Impact
I soon discovered that it doesn’t really matter whether your introduction to CollaborateUp is through an issue solving workshop, or at an event as Richard brings all the chaos together with his savvy charm and good humour - the most important thing is that you get to engage and work with these great folks! My biggest take out over the past five years of being a part of their world – collaboration is a process and you’re not going to get very far unless you know what problem you’re all trying to solve together. The CollaborateUp framework helps by asking simple questions to help reveal the big answers. - Cate O’Kane, Founder, &co partnership consultancy
"Building up the capacity and capability of nonprofits to make a difference in the world is a core part of the Office Depot Foundation's mission. CollaborateUp had a really big impact on the nonprofits we support, giving them tools and insights they can use immediately." - Mary Wong
Extremely practical and extremely easy to implement once you have an understanding of the steps and the formula and the requirements of the process. - CollaborateUp Academy Participant
“Even with a diverse set of stakeholders and a very limited timeframe, the CollaborateUp Formula allowed us cut through a complex set of issues and develop a concrete and pragmatic proposal for tackling a very tough problem. Richard Crespin is exactly what you want in a facilitator, someone able to bring people together to recognize their shared goals and the best ways to achieve them.” - Amit Ronen Director, George Washington University Solar Institute