Extraordinary boards build strong partnerships with stakeholders: Part 1

Building solutions together is a great way to increase support for the work of any organization.

Partnerships are important to the boards of all organizations. While many sources define partnerships by legal relationships, Wikipedia has a broader definition, calling a partnership an arrangement where parties “agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.” This encompasses a wide range of partnerships, many of which are important to organizations and the boards that govern them. This Component of Extraordinary Governance is “responsive and accountable partnership with stakeholders.”

The goal is to build true partnerships with stakeholders. This article will focus on the partnership idea, while part two (make link here please) will focus on stakeholders. Using the definition above, this component requires cooperation. While there may be a hierarchical element to the relationship, such as with voters who elect individuals to serve on government boards, commissions, or councils, cooperation suggests a mutually dependent relationship where each relies on the other to help them achieve certain goals. Hostile relationships rarely build effective organizations, or accomplish long term positive impacts for a community of people. Some level of cooperation is necessary, especially when the partners bring a variety of diverse interests to the effort. Cooperation doesn’t mean having to agree on everything, just that both sides need to find a way to work together to accomplish the shared mission. Cooperation sometimes means the need to compromise to move the effort forward. While compromise can be difficult when dealing with deeply held beliefs or convictions, it shouldn’t be so difficult for most of the questions encountered by organizations in their work. When participants choose to set aside their differences on some issues, in order to work together on the ones they agree on, compromise and cooperation can lead to amazing results.

Continuing, that leads to the mutual interests that serve as the foundation of partnerships. Sometimes those we share mutual interests with are very much like ourselves. Many organizations fit this description and accomplish a great deal. For some problems that organizations attempt to tackle, a wider range of skills and ideas can be very helpful. Bringing together a greater diversity of people with a wider range of experiences can shed light on solutions that groups with a high degree of similarity might never see.

In part two of this Michigan State University Extension series on building “responsive and accountable partnerships with stakeholders”, we will focus on the stakeholders. 

Read more about the Components of Extraordinary Governance in this recent article, and this one from 2014, on the Michigan State University Extension news website.

Michigan State University Extension’s Government and Public Policy Team and the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy provide educational programs for government officials and citizens regarding many aspects of local and tribal governments in Michigan. Please contact the author at amrhein@anr.msu.edu for more information. 

Did you find this article useful?