Two Frameworks for Structuring Partnership and Collaboration

The two frameworks described below, The Partnering Cycle and the STAR Diagram are outlined in more detail in the readings and resources for this module. Each offers a different way to think about structuring a partnership or collaboration.

The Partnering Cycle, developed by the Partnership Brokers Association (2019), and described in the Tamarack Institute webinar (n.d.), takes a more linear approach to describing the steps in developing a collaborative process, which include: Scoping and Building; Managing and Maintaining; Reviewing and Revising; and Sustaining Outcomes. In each phase, there are a set of key activities to undertake, which build towards a list of key attributes of effective partnership (many of which parallel the practices described above), which include:

  • A clear understanding between the partners of the word partnership
  • Agreement to a shared vision and common purpose
  • Account and allowance being made for individual partners’ interests
  • The co-creation of design, decisions, and solutions
  • Commitment to sharing risks as well as benefits
  • Every partner contributes resources (tangible or intangible)
  • Partners share decision-making and leadership responsibilities
  • Partners commit to mutual/horizontal accountability
  • Partners work together to develop a principled approach to their partnering endeavours
  • Attention is paid to partnering process as well as the partnerships’ projects

The Partnering Cycle provides a robust overview, at each stage, of the kind of details involved in the complex work of building and engaging a formal partnership.

In contrast, The STAR Diagram, developed by the Human Systems Dynamics Institute (2016), presents a different way to plan and implement a collaborative process or partnership. While this model can be used to map out key activities in a formal process, it can also be used more informally to build an agenda for a kick-off meeting or to diagnose a collaboration that has become stuck.

This model is organized around only four attributes, each of which is needed for effective collaboration among partners. Instead of creating a step-by-step guide, the STAR Diagram provides a set of characteristics to encourage, to build towards and to look for in the development and ongoing work of a partnership. These are:

  • “A balance of Same and Different,” which describes the need to have enough similarity among the group, whether in a guiding purpose, alignment of values, or some other aspect that there is cohesion for working together, and enough difference to enable creativity and a diversity of perspectives.
  • “A balance of Talking and Listening,” which describes the need for each member to have the ability and space to contribute their view(s) and participate in decision-making, while also having the capacity to hear new ideas and learn together in a way that improves the outcome of the group’s work.
  • “Authentic Workwhich describes the need for the work of the group itself to have meaning and relevance for all involved, and for each member to be able to make a genuine contribution.
  • “Reason for Being” which describes a purpose embedded in the group that goes beyond a particular output or project, and speaks to the question described above about what can be accomplished together that can’t be achieved alone.

When considering how you want to approach either the development or ongoing work of a partnership, you might find that one or the other (or some combination of both) is helpful in providing structure and guidance to the process.


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