Next Steps

Operational Issues in Partnership – Formation Follow-up

Author: Phill Butler | visionSynergy

 
This article is part of a series on major issues that leaders may encounter in the life cycle of mission networks and partnerships. This article highlights what to do after the Formation meeting.

 
Imagine that your Partnership has been launched. The group of people who came to your meeting to explore a Partnership have agreed to work together. They’ve decided on some projects to work on together. They’ve decided they want to meet again and a date has been set. The group shown great faith in you by asking you to be the Facilitator – and you’ve agreed! You’ve closed the Formation meeting on a positive note – and everyone has gone home feeling excited that they’ve had so much success meeting together.

And now – the reality sinks in for you. You’ve agreed to be the Facilitator of the Partnership. What do you do next? Here are six Formation phase follow-up activities that will help a Facilitator keep the momentum going.
 

STEP 1: REST & RECREATION (i.e. Re-Creation!)

Why is it important for the Facilitator to get some rest after the meeting? Facilitating a Partnership Meeting is extremely demanding. If it’s the first time you’ve done something like this, it will be emotionally and physically draining. Facilitating a Partnership Meeting means long days – with early mornings and late nights – and very little sleep. You need to recover from this heavy schedule. Don’t neglect this. Often we go from one meeting to the next without giving ourselves the time to recover. The result is that we may not perform in the most effective way!
 

STEP 2: PUBLISH A REPORT OF THE FORMATION MEETING

If the Partnership has asked for a report of the Partnership Meeting to be circulated to the partners, the Facilitator will need to ensure that a report is written. Sometimes a Partnership may decide they do not want a written report of the meeting, perhaps because of a sensitive security issue. If this is the case, you may still want to write up the notes – so that you have a written record of the meeting for future reference. However, you will need to make sure that it is clearly stated that this is a private report – and that you don’t pass it on to anyone else.

The report may include detailed minutes of the meeting, or just a summary of the outcomes. A detailed report could include the following items from the meeting:

  • Copy of the actual meeting schedule
  • List of those attending
  • Notes on agency reports
  • List of priorities suggested
  • The two or three top priorities which were agreed by consensus
  • What Working Groups were formed, members of each Working Group, leadership of
    each Working Group, & priorities agreed by each group
  • Any significant events in the meeting
  • Any actions you are required to take as a result of the meeting
  • Financial Report
  • Date of next meeting
  • Summary evaluation of the meeting – what worked and what did not work

If someone else is writing the official report/minutes, follow-up with them and try to encourage them to get it out as soon as possible. (Consider reviewing the draft before it goes out – because there may be sensitive issues, which shouldn’t be circulated to the whole world!)

Circulate the report and do this as soon as possible after the meeting – no later than a month after the meeting. There is nothing worse than getting a report or minutes of a meeting six months after the meeting has been held!
 

STEP 3: COMMUNICATION AND RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING

You will need to be developing relationships with three groups of people:

1. Attendees

The first group is the partners who attended the meeting. You will be working on building relationships with these people in a variety of ways. For people who live close to you, visits are very helpful. However, for people who live further away, then you will need to use the telephone and e-mail.

As you build relationships, be aware of the varying ways relationships are built via online contact and e-mail, telephone, and face-to-face. In communicating with partners – don’t just rely on e-mail. Voice communication (telephone and web-based telephone) can have definite advantages. There are times when talking to someone provides the clearer communication; sometimes the cost of not talking to the person far outweighs the longer time it takes to make a call.

2. Non-Attendees

You won’t just be building relationships with those who were at the meeting. The second group of people with whom you will be building relationships are those who didn’t come to the Partnership Meeting. As you are taking the first steps in the Partnership, you should communicate with these people who didn’t come to the meeting in order to continue building relationships with them and perhaps get them involved in the Partnership. Go see them or call them. Tell them about the meeting and encourage them to think about coming to the next meeting (and make it as easy as possible for them to come).

3. New Potential Partners

The third group of people are those who you didn’t even know about the meeting. At the meeting, or subsequent to it, you may learn of others who are either involved or who may want to be involved in the Partnership’s ministry. You may want to ask attendees to suggest others who may be interested in attending. Then, after the meeting, reach out to them, share about the meeting, and invite them to consider attending future meetings.

The more communication there is, the more the partners will feel that they are part of something beyond their own organization. You may want to do an occasional e-mail report to the whole partnership – perhaps giving them a report on the progress of the Working Groups. But as well as general communication to everyone – don’t forget the personal communication – a personal e-mail, a telephone call and even face-to-face meetings wherever possible. This is not just at the start of the Partnership but throughout its life. Good communication will make a Partnership grow!
 

STEP 4: COORDINATING THE WORKING GROUPS

As Facilitator, you want to try to avoid getting too deeply involved in any of the Working Groups. If you do, you are likely to be expected to do much or most of the work – whereas the function of these groups is to get as many members of the Partnership actively involved in something.

However, as Facilitator you do have some role to play in the Working Groups – mainly in supporting, encouraging, and prompting the Leaders or Coordinators of the Working Groups. You need to get reports on the progress of the Working Groups – so you can keep other members of the Partnership informed of the progress which is being made. The demands of the day-to-day urgent issues which the coordinators are facing in their normal ministry can often distract them from keeping on top of the Working Group. Your encouragement can help to keep them focused on the outcomes and effectiveness of the Group.
 

STEP 5: IDENTIFYING RESOURCES

What might resources be needed for?

  • The next Partnership Meeting (expenses, scholarships, etc.)
  • Facilitator travel
  • Partnership communication needs
  • Funds for Partnership projects

Funds are obviously not the only resource that will be needed. The time and skills of people are resources that can be leveraged for the development and operation of the Partnership. You should try to identify those persons who can be used to help the Partnership achieve its goals.

The Facilitator is likely to be drawn into the task of identifying resources because the Facilitator is often very involved in allocating or coordinating financial expenditures. If a Working Group is developing funding for any projects – you need to know what funds are being requested – for what and from whom. This is particularly important so that the Partnership doesn’t ask for funding from the same source for two different projects (unless they are put in a single request!)
 

STEP 6: DEVELOPING THE FACILITATION TEAM

If a Facilitation Team has been selected, elected, or appointed, the following will help the Team work more effectively:

  • Set aside time to meet together at the end of the partnership meeting – even if only for an hour or so.
  • Plan times to meet together, even if you are scattered across the world! And when you do meet together – don’t go straight into business – make sure there is time to re-connect with one another.
  • Schedule at least a full day together before the next Partnership Meeting.
  • Develop a pattern of copying everyone else on the facilitation team when e-mails are sent on partnership business. Don’t leave some members out of the flow of communication. Consider using an online collaboration space or an email group.
  • Communicate beyond e-mail. Talking by telephone or meeting up with individuals can make a significant difference.
    Suggest scheduling a regular conference call – perhaps monthly – or twice-monthly.

Following these six steps will help you maintain the momentum gained in the formation phase. You are now ready to begin to make the most of the potential which the new Partnership offers.
 

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