Partnership building for social impact

This week we were honoured to host Ros Tennyson at the first Ontario Social Innovation Summit. A milestone in itself, the Building Partnerships for Social Change summit was presented by three ministries of the Government of Ontario that are dedicated to promoting open communication with Ontarians and finding new ways to bring about social change.

One of three keynote speakers invited to present to attendees, Ros has made partnership building her life’s work. She has been working with the International Business Leader’s Forum (IBLF) since 1991 pioneering the organisation’s cross-sector partnership work. She has experience with developing partnerships for sustainable development in more than 25 countries working with international corporations, the United Nations, governments and a wide range of civil society organisations.

Not content to have her present at the summit alone, we invited Ros to participate in a webinar as part of our Inspiring Action for Social Impact Series. We recorded the event for those of you that couldn’t make it. You can watch the recording here.

Ros’s message appears common-sensical, but for anybody that has tried to honestly engage cross-sector partners in projects, you know it’s difficult work. It’s more than just leaving your ego at the door, you must also recalibrate old assumptions about who has power, who has money, who has experience. Key to partnership building is an agreement at the outset about what “partnership” itself means. Ros has found time and again that different people and organizations understand partnership differently. Not having common agreement about the definition can be the undoing of collaboration.

Language and communication must be monitored, adjusted, revisited. This is not light work.

The Partnering Initiative, with which Ros does much of her work, has developed a suite of resources and tools explaining the best way to establish partnerships and make them work. On their website you will also find links to their Partnership Forum, through which you can establish contact with more partnering practitioners. The Partnering Initiative list terrific case studies and learning books. Bookmark this site if you want to take your social change work to the next level.

Ros Tennyson will soon return to the UK, but we’re hoping we can invite her back for her 3-day training workshop in partnership building at a later date. This would be a must-attend event. In the meantime, take a look through her presentation.

The Inspiring Action for Social Impact series has begun with a fervour. Our next event will be done in partnership with Net Change Week 2011. Ayelet Baron is the Vice-President of Strategy and Planning at Cisco Systems Canada Co. Ayelet will present as the closing keynote for Net Change Week on “How Collaboration is Changing the World.” You can find details about the event and register here.

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Geraldine Cahill About Geraldine Cahill

Manager, Programs and Partnerships, SiG National

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