Cross-Sector Partnership Brokers - Overcoming the Complexity of Partnerships
My observations tell me that not a single international forum since Rio 2000 has gone by without a call for more or better collaboration between sectors to help alleviate poverty.
‘Partnership’ has been the buzzword in sustainable development for many years now. Dig deeper, however, it has also become increasingly clear over time that multi-stakeholder collaborations, whilst being energetically promoted, have been struggling to achieve their ambitious goals. Indeed, many struggle simply to become partnerships – in any meaningful sense of that word. Many partnerships often fall far short of expectations and many fail.
Partnering is not easy.
It critically depends on establishing strong working relationships between key individuals often from radically different working cultures. It requires a radical change of mind-set (in the individual, his/her organization, and in the partnership entity formed ) and behavior together with a willingness to think and act in new ways. For this reason, partnerships take effort and professionalism both to establish and to nurture to maturity. Partnering effectiveness requires specific skills, persistence, courage, tenacity and imagination in those involved – and leadership is also undoubtedly and possibly the critical success factor.
Look into successful partnerships and you will invariably find someone who has taken on the role of a partnership broker. He or she makes a significant difference to the effectiveness and impact of partnerships, role modeling a new form of facilitative leadership that has markedly different attributes to the kind we find in traditional, single sector environments.
The role of a ‘partnership broker’, however, and the value a broker adds to the success of a partnership is not widely understood. So, what do brokers do?
A report entitled ‘What do partnership brokers do? An enquiry into practice’, produced by the Partnership Brokers Association (PBA), the world’s first professional entity for cross-sector partnership brokers, offers some answers.
Drawing on the experiences of 250 PBA accredited brokers, the report concludes that partnership brokers undertake a number of clearly defined roles which can make a significant difference to multi-stakeholder collaboration. They help partners address a wide range of typical partnering challenges and improve a partnership’s efficiency, effectiveness and – sometimes – its capacity for innovation.
Some of the key findings are that partnership brokering is most effective when brokers:
These are special skills, which do not appear on any traditional curricula. The PBA is the only entity running a unique professional training programme for brokers, promoting partnership brokering and supporting a sizeable community of partnership brokers worldwide.
More than 800 people from 70 countries and representing all sectors have completed the PBA basic partnership brokers training course with more than 250 going on to qualify as accredited partnership brokers. Several organisations have sent significant numbers of their staff through the course – including AusAID, CARE International, Nike, Rio Tinto, Shell, and World Vision. Other organisations have commissioned partnership brokers training for their employees and / or partnerships, including the Africa Development Bank, GTZ, Microsoft, Newmont, and the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
You can find information on the Partnership Brokers Association and its activities at PBA