Creating Your Partnership

partnershipPartnership and collaboration are fundamental to success in developing interventions. Relationships between health behaviors and health outcomes are complex and affect the entire community. This section describes the process of creating a partnership by working collectively to identify the issues of greatest concern in your community and developing the shared vision and mission for the partnership.

Although it may sound obvious, the best way to start creating changes in the health of your community is to enlist the person power necessary to develop and implement (or put to action) interventions.

What are partnerships?
Collaborative partnerships are essential to achieving healthy people living in healthy communities. A collaborative partnership is a purposive relationship between partners committed to pursuing both an individual and a collective benefit. (Nelson et al., 1999)

When do you create partnerships?
Partnerships are formed for many different reasons including: (1) increasing opportunities to learn and adopt new skills, (2) securing access to resources, (3) sharing financial risks and costs, (4) gaining input from more or different members of the community, and (5) enhancing the ability to respond rapidly to the changing needs of the community.

How do you create partnerships?
A first step to creating a successful partnership is to invite community stakeholders to share their ideas and concerns. Ideally, groups may already be formed in the community around issues or concerns that you share. Try to involve people or organizations that have insight into health conditions, risk factors and social and environmental resources in your community.

Begin to identify and recruit potential partners as follows:

  1. Identify key stakeholders in the community. Think about the different sectors of the community when making the list such as local government, organizations (faith-based, volunteer advocacy), health services, schools/universities, businesses, media, and concerned citizens. Review the Community Toolbox outline “Creating or Maintaining a Coalition or Partnership” to assist you in identifying key stakeholders in your community.
  2. Select an accessible venue for stakeholders to meet and plan an agenda that invites participation. Read about creating a participatory environment in the Community Toolbox’s “Participatory Approaches to Planning Community Interventions.”
  3. Issue an invitation, the agenda and background materials that explain the reason for meeting and prepares participants to engage in the discussion. Read “Conducting Effective Meetings” for making the most of your meeting time.
  4. Consider using a trained facilitator for the meeting. For considerations in choosing a facilitator, go to “Key Questions When Choosing a Facilitator.” Some questions that you should be prepared to discuss with a facilitator when requesting services are included in the attached worksheet, “Request for a Facilitator.”
  5. At the meeting, generate a set of ground rules with participants so the meeting runs smoothly.
  6. Be prepared to deal with conflict as it arises. A thorough exploration of dealing with conflict is available from the Community Tool Box, Training for Conflict Resolution.”
  7. Have the group decide if the partnership should be formalized. One key consideration is whether the partnership should incorporate and pursue tax-exempt status.  See the information about 501 c 3 status in Momentum or go to

Another option to consider as you first begin organizing your partnership is to utilize a “fiscal conduit” to handle incoming/outgoing funds. A fiscal conduit is an organization that is already incorporated and tax-exempt that administers funds and performs other administrative tasks for your partnership. Also called a "lead agency," they can be invaluable in helping out with the organization of your partnership - reimbursing contractors, and sharing space. Local United Way organizations and public health departments are two examples of groups that often serve as fiscal conduits.  The lead agency can do much of the financial paperwork for you, and provide other kinds of less tangible support that can really help you at the start of your partnership.

  1. Document what occurs at the meeting by taking notes or minutes and share with all attendees.

Some specific strategies for partnership building include (Kaye & Wolff, 2002):

  • build relationships with others in the community before trying to tackle community issues;
  • involve the community in defining the issues and identifying partners;
  • have everyone participate in naming the partnership;
  • create ways to meaningfully involve diverse groups by discipline (e.g., business, clergy, providers) and relative advantage or disadvantage with respect to social resources (e.g., income, race, gender); and
  • craft settings and activities that encourage members to get to know each other and enable them to learn how to work across inherent power differences within the group.

In developing the partnership, identify a process that will (Baker et al., 1999):

  • Begin by building relationships and establishing trust and credibility. Develop relationships based on mutual trust and respect.
  • Acknowledge and honor different partner's agendas.
  • Reinforce shared leadership.
  • Acknowledge the difference between community input and active community involvement.
  • Be aware of partnership maturation and that partnerships face different challenges at different stages of partnership development
  • Plan for member organizations to experience internal transitions that may influence their involvement in the partnership by including more than one member of an organization in the partnership.
  • Encourage upstream thinking and action on broader issues that affect the community.
  • Consider multidisciplinary approaches.
  • Document what has been learned in a manner consistent with the overall approach taken in the partnership.
  • Demonstrate accountability to the community.

An Obesity Example
You work at a local public health agency and you have just received funding support for a community-based obesity prevention initiative. You can begin by making a list of all of the key partners that you want to involve in this initiative. Start within your organization and think about the expertise you have internally. For example, if you work in a health department, you may want to consult with experts in:

  • community health assessment;
  • epidemiology and surveillance;
  • community outreach; and
  • health education.

Next, consider partners in your community that can support the initiative. Specifically, you may want to think about physical activity or diet and nutrition resource people in the community. For example, consider other professionals in:

  • schools (e.g., health and physical education teachers, school nurse, counselor and food service director);
  • worksites (e.g., health promotion and human resources directors);
  • health care settings (e.g., registered dietitians, physicians);
  • parks and recreation (e.g., park planner, program director); and
  • urban planning and transportation (e.g., planner, transportation director).

Keep in mind that you will always want to include individuals and organizations that know the history, current activities and needs of the community. Finally, you may also want to think about partners that can provide expertise in areas such as data management and analysis, resource development and intervention evaluation. An important step in developing your partnership is to assess the current capacity of its members. For information on developing partnership capacity, go to Building Partnership Capacity in the Capacity component.

Continue to Identifying the Vision and Mission for the Partnership >>
Or select another component at the top of the page:
  • Printable Partnerships Worksheet (.pdf) or (.doc)

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