“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb
The national Cooperative Extension System has a long and rich history of delivering quality educational outreach programs. The System also has a solid track record of bringing other organizations together for the purpose of resource sharing, community building, and the development of partnerships. Partnerships have a way of transforming the impossible into the possible by leveraging the strengths of groups and organizations for public good. Partnerships also benefit individuals, families, and communities. The same is true with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) at both Alabama A&M University and Auburn University.
In Alabama Extension, when we think of partnerships, we mean collaborating with another organization or a group to serve Alabama residents in some capacity. Three key elements that can lead to establishing healthy and effective partnerships include communication, collaboration, and commitment.
It is nearly impossible to have any level of healthy partnerships without effective communication. What should you discuss as part of effective communication when considering a potential partnership? Discussion topics can include the following:
- The goals or strategic priorities of each potential partner
- The strengths or areas of expertise of each potential partner
- The number of persons who can commit time and effort to the partnership
- The availability of resources such as materials, supplies, or funds
- Opportunities for collaboration between potential partners
The fun begins once organizations enter into a partnership. However, more communication should occur with emphasis on strategic efforts that align with the goals or priorities of all partners. This requires collaboration. When collaborating, partners should talk about the following:
- What they plan to do and why
- Who should be involved in the planning process
- Who will benefit and how they will benefit as a result of the partnership
- Who should implement the partnership and when
- How and why it’s important to document what was implemented in the program, project or activity
- How will success be measured and by whom
- How partners will report outputs and outcomes
- What conclusions are drawn from the results of the project
Partners should meet again to discuss the partnership. The focus at this point, however, shifts to possible improvements before the cycle is repeated or a new plan is developed.
The third element to effective partnerships is commitment to the success of the partnership. All entities must agree to pursue mutual success and then put action behind the words. Commitment may involve renegotiating certain terms and conditions, adjustments to resource allocations, reordering steps in the implementation process, or it could involve reordering roles of team members.
These are challenges, but not insurmountable as such, as long as everyone maintains the same level of understanding and commitment towards achieving the agreed upon goals (continuing or newly aligned).
Alabama Extension is always open to establishing partnerships on the local, state, regional, and federal levels. Contact your local county Extension office to find out how you can partner with Alabama Extension in your county.
Contact Assistant Director Kimberly Holmes using (256) 690-4614 or firstname.lastname@example.org to partner with Alabama Extension at Alabama A&M University. Contact Associate Director Paul Brown at (334) 750-1113 or email@example.com to partner with Alabama Extension at Auburn University.