Partnerships are critical to success in any endeavor, especially in agricultural research and extension projects.
Critical Issues to Manage
- Find a project driver - Identify someone from one of the collaborating organizations to assume a leadership role - promote the project, coordinate activities, and to make sure that outputs are delivered on time and to the level of quality agreed.
- Work with "winners" - Identify “winners” - farmer collaborators, extension partners, etc within the project who tend to be self-motivated and provide drive to the project.
- Build trust & respect - Trust and respect are critical – build these in the project. Successful projects depend on people and their ability to work together. It takes time and shared experiences to build trust and establish the confidence that each partner has the good of the project and each other at heart.
- Develop project goals collectively, explicitly, and openly - Engage all key partners in developing project goals and guiding principles. Be proactive in identifying potential critics and explaining the project to them.
- Build capacity - Develop skills and confidence within the team to understand, test and promote the technology in appropriate ways.
- Make the technology real - The technology must meet a real, perceived need and must be simplified with only the critical components presented.
- Obtain adequate resources - Good programs and powerful partnerships will fail without commitment and the financial resources to carry out activities. Money can create good will! However, all participants, even farmer collaborators, should contribute some of their own resources. Such commitment contributes to sustainability of effort.
- Build institutional stability and commitment - Groups must have financial, personnel, institutional and organizational stability. Participating organizations must have a "buy-in" at the top, the middle and the bottom. Individual self-interest or egos can override any institutional commitment to partnerships – manage these factors.
- Allow for transaction costs - be prepared for the transaction costs involved in establishing and maintaining collaborative working relationships.
- Accept different perspectives – seeing the world from different viewpoints: Recognize that organizations have different mandates, goals and motivations. For successful collaboration, each institute has to see benefit from its participation, and all participants must find themselves in a “win-win” situation.
- Deal with the ‘fall-out’ from change - When proposing and carrying out change, it is common to upset the status quo and possibly threaten vested interests. Recognize that opposition to change derives from several motives, including: opposition to change per se, opposition to the objectives of the project, disagreement with the approach applied in the project, different agendas either political or individual, misunderstandings of project activities, or existing prejudices. In responding consider: how to bring as many sectors/organizations on-board, how to avoid unfounded or unnecessary criticism, and respond positively to genuine.