Thursday, May 6, 2010

Better Together

A number of Chinook Arch staff were lucky enough to be able to attend the Alberta Library Conference last week in Jasper. As usual it was full of comraderie, food and good information. I learned about some new and upcoming books from the Dewey Divas (always a great session), Copyright Basics (which Lauren will be leading a session on May 31 at HQ) and building community partnerships. Brent Buechler and Jan Sahibzada, from Calgary Public Library, shared their experiences with building community partnerships in their session Better Together: Strategic Community Partnerships. I heard some great points at their session and thought I would share them here.

Brent started the session by sharing a great quote: 'When spiderwebs are woven together they can catch a lion'. What a great analogy for the power of partnerships.

So, why partner?
1. To reach more people; you might even create new library users
2. To find and better utilize resources
3. Funders (like granting agencies) like to see evidence of partnership
4. The community likes to see evidence of partnership for publicly funded institutions

Did you know that libraries make great partners? Why?
1. Because you already have established public trust and credibility
2. You have a wide customer reach - every age and every segment of the population uses the library
3. You have a wide geographic reach - especially libraries who are part of a System (or similar). You have the potential to reach a much larger audience than most local organizations.
4. Libraries are known for having knowledgeable and passionate staff who care about the community.

So, SELL YOURSELF as the ideal partner - because you are!

In partnering with other organizations, you will want to first determine what you want to achieve:
  • Review your Plan of Service - what are your needs? Your areas of focus and opportunity?
  • Identify how partnerships will deliver value. Why do you want to partner? What will you get out of it?
  • Conduct an environmental scan - you don't want to compete with what's already being done in the community, you want to compliment it.
When selecting a possible partner, ask yourself:
  • What is the purpose of the project/partnership and what resources are needed?
  • Which organizations serve a similar clientele?
  • How will both organizations benefit?
  • Does the organization you are approaching have the capacity to meet your partnership needs/ambitions?
A good partnership requires management. Think of partnership management as:
1. Development of the partnership
2. Delivery of the resulting service/product
3. Evaluation
4. Celebration

The partnership process:
- Put it in writing. Partnerships are negotiated in good faith and confirmed in writing.
- Consider the 5 W's
1. Why - what community needs are you supporting?
2. Who - what are the roles and responsibilities of each partner
3. What - which organizational priorities (for your library) are you supporting?
4. When - determine timelines in regards to key activities
5. How - define the parameters for working together [okay, that isn't a W)
- Consider the risks involved; are there legal issues; will you need insurance?

Some things to consider about partnerships:
  • Partnerships take time, clarity of focus, trust and a spirit of collaboration
  • The partnership process is open, inclusive, accountable and consistent
  • Both partners must have a mutual commitment to strategic results
  • Common goals and open communication must exist
  • Benefits to both parties must be clearly defined
  • Decisions made should reflect all views and needs
  • Each partner must retain its own identity and work towards its own goals
  • There must be a commitment to ongoing review and evaluation

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