I’m often asked how Seed to Oaks has cultivated over 50 community partnerships in the areas of jobs, healthcare, and education. Moreover, they ask, how is it possible when we live in an age where people are largely dismissive of and disillusioned about the power of local churches to bring about positive change?
I offer up these ten principles that I learned from Phil Butler, in his book Well Connected. The challenge I found is that if you really want to do community partnerships right, then there is no shortcut. It’s unpopular to say, but the greatest barrier to community partnerships that truly work is our desire (or should I say our demand) for them to be built quickly with immediate scalable results. I say, “of course, who doesn’t want that?” But unfortunately, I’ve never seen a community partnership last this way. Start as many “partnerships” as you want, but I’m here to remind you that when you are doing good work and are bringing about real systemic change, it typically gets messy (sometimes really messy) before you see results that last. If you’ve got a good relational foundation, you increase your chances making it, but nobody is guaranteed to make it through the mess and most collaborations fall apart.
The good news is that if you build real authentic relationships with other people and organizations, based on mutual trust and concern, then you will see an unprecedented willingness to collaborate. You will scale your resources, benefit from fresh expertise, and flourish like never before.
Principle #1: Effective partnerships are built on trust, openness and mutual concern.
Principle #2: Lasting partnerships need a committed facilitator or champion (someone who, by consensus, has been given the role of bringing the partnership to life and keeping the fires burning.)
Principle #3: Successful partnerships develop in order to accomplish a specific vision or task.
Principle #4: Effective partnerships have limited, achievable objectives in the beginning.
Principle #5: Effective partnerships start by identifying key felt needs among the people being served.
- The people the partnership effort is trying to reach and/or serve
- The partner organizations with their own staffs and vision
- The partner funding each of these organizations
- Eventually, the partnership itself with its growing expectations
Principle #6: Partnerships are a process not an event.
Principle #7: Effective partnerships are even more challenging to maintain than to start.
Principle #8: Effective partnerships are made up of partners with clear identities and vision.
Principle #9: Effective partnerships acknowledge, even celebrate their differences.
Principle #10: Effective partnerships expect problems and proactively deal with them.
I’m amazed at how, with the right partnerships, churches are able to accomplished big things for Jesus. Take for example this story about how several small churches partnered with a city’s Health Department to eliminate a Hepatitis A outbreak. Don’t cut yourself short, I’m here to encourage you that your church or business can do the same.
If you are curious and want to talk through what a collaboration with Seed to Oaks looks like, you can connect with one of our strategists. We would love to connect with you to answer questions or brainstorm with you about what kind of partnerships would be best for your church or business.