Looking Outside the Silos, Finding Partners

Module Three, with the matrix to identify strategic partners and collaborators with whom to communicate or engage, provides one way to start identifying potential partners for a collaborative process. If looking to partner ‘beyond the usual suspects’ it can be important to use some of the approaches below to check for blind spots and to move beyond your comfort zone. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Generate questions about the work/initiative: Starting with what we don’t know can be a useful way to identify the people or organizations who have insights outside of our expertise and experience;
  • Use the ‘snowball’ approach: Begin with a few contacts and build out your list based on their suggestions for other individuals or organizations;
  • Trust peer-to-peer outreach: You may not be the best person to reach out to potential partners, but a trusted member of their community/team/organization might be able to help build that bridge;
  • Meet people where they are: Particularly when partnering across sectors, consider where the potential partners are already gathering and what format for connection will be most appropriate and comfortable for them;
  • Start with questions: Learn what is most important about the topic/issue to those you want to partner with before making the ‘pitch’ for a collaboration;
  • Make space for no/low commitment: Allow early conversations about partnership to be casual, leaving room for little or no commitment until it is needed.
  • Make a large tent (at least at first): while a partnership or collaboration can have too much divergence and not strong enough alignment for forward movement, it can be helpful to consider the furthest edges of who might have an interest in the work. From there, you can work backwards towards a fit for function group composition.


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Strategic Dialogue and Engagement for Climate Adaptation Copyright © by Simon Fraser University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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