Partnerships, networks, or other form cooperation always have real people and real ministries involved. This means there are expectations. Particularly in the beginning, what can we do to get our new collaborative effort off the ground effectively? This article walks you through some very practical action steps that can make all the difference as you get underway.
Imagine that your partnership or network has just been launched. The group of people who came together has agreed to ongoing collaboration.
- They have agreed they are more likely to achieve the primary objective by working together rather and everyone doing their own thing.
- They have decided on some action steps and identified “working groups” to address these action steps (i.e., “task forces” or any other name that suits the purpose).
- They have decided they want to meet again, and a date has been set.
And the group has asked you to serve as the facilitator or part of a facilitation team.
Now the reality sinks in. What is next?
Here are a few early-stage follow-up activities that will help you or your facilitation team keep the momentum going.
1. Get out a summary of the initial working meeting – soon!
Sometimes a partnership or network may decide they do not want a written report of the meeting, perhaps; issues may be too sensitive, or security may be a challenge. If this is the case, you may still want to write up the notes and share them in the facilitation team – so that you have a written record of the meeting for future reference. However, you will need to make sure that it’s clear that this is a confidential report – and that it’s not to be circulated in any way. It may be that you will offer to send the summary on request.
Confidentiality is critical in partnerships and networks. The right information to the right people. Reporting immediately has a huge impact on credibility of your network or partnership – and your leadership!
A basic must-be-included outline has the following:
- Copy of the meeting schedule/agenda that was used.
- Contact database of those attending (IF the participants have agreed to this. Some may opt out for security or other reasons).
- Actionable decisions
- Next steps (What? Why? When? And by Whom?)
- Date of next meeting
- Link to a shared folder for online information storage and sharing
A more detailed account of the meeting might also include the following items:
- Notes on relevant reports that may have been given by agencies or leaders involved.
- Were working groups, task forces, or other groups formed to take action forward on the agreed priorities? If so, around which issues? Who is the contact person for each group and what’s their contact info.?
- Do any of the working groups have meetings planned which might be open to others? Frequently participants have to make the tough choice at a larger partnership or network working meeting and can’t get to each breakout session of interest. This gives them another option for engagement.
- Any actions you or the facilitation team has been asked to take as a result of the meeting
- Financial Report — if relevant
- Information about what communication/messaging platform the group has agreed on.
2. Decide on a communication plan and platform
How will your newly formed network share and store information? This is a key problem to solve early on as it essential to have an organized, easily accessible, and secure way for the network to connect and keep updated.
Key questions to address in your communication plan:
- How often will you communicate? How often can people expect to hear from you?
- What forms of communication will you utilize (email, What’s App, Signal, etc.)?
- What is your communication protocol? If someone else is writing this post-working meeting report agree on an ASAP delivery/circulation date. Make sure the draft is reviewed before it goes out – there may be sensitive issues that only you or the facilitation team know of.
- What level of security is needed? For some groups more public platforms are relevant. For others, security and flexibility can be priorities
- Where will you store files? Google Drive, Tresorit, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Slack are all useful platforms. Decide on one and ensure everyone has access.
Timely, well organized and accurate communication is one of the most important aspects of building momentum because it establishes credibility for the partnership or network. We all know the frustration of slow or late communications!
3. Pro-active relationship building
Partnerships and networks are all about relationships. They provide a wonderful context for us to experience unity around a shared vision, trust that results in transparency, peer-level support, and the powerful potential of Kingdom collaboration to accomplish God-sized endeavors!
Who is your network community? How can they be grouped? How will you consistently connect with each group?
The first group are the those who attended the meeting. You can build relationships with these people in a variety of ways. Most likely our connections will be through email and agreed upon social media platforms. The point is, attendees need to hear from you.
As you build relationships, be aware of the various ways relationships are built through online contact — e-mail, phone, zoom, messaging aps, and, yes, when possible, face-to-face. In communicating with partners – don’t just rely on e-mail. There are times when connecting personally is critical; sometimes the cost of not talking personally far outweighs the longer time it takes to make that personal connection. This takes time but pays huge dividends!
Next are those who didn’t come to your initial working meeting. These may be those who were invited but couldn’t make the meeting. They may be people that attendees have recommended should be part of the initiative. Encourage them to think about coming to the next meeting and offer to talk with them, personally, if they would like more information.
Remember, the more and better the communication there is, the more the participants feel the partnership or network and its vision is active and credible. This can give them the sense that they are part of something beyond their own organization – a real Kingdom initiative.
The “working groups”
Whatever your leadership role in the partnership or network, if working groups or project task forces were established, you have an important role, supporting, encouraging, and prompting the leaders or coordinators of these working groups. Stay in touch regarding their activity and progress. Then, keep the wider partnership or network informed of the progress being made. The day-to-day urgent issues which the working group facilitators face in their own, individual ministry can often distract them from keeping on top of the working group. Your communication with them and your encouragement can help to keep them focused on the importance and effectiveness of their group.
4. Strengthening the facilitation team
If a facilitation team has been selected, the following can help the team work more effectively:
- Review – Set aside time to meet at the end of the initial partnership or network meeting – even if only for an hour to review how things went and agree on the next action steps – what, who, and when?
- Plan regular times to meet, even if you are scattered across the world! And when you do meet – don’t go straight into business – make sure there is time to re-connect with one another, personally – and pray for each other! Remember – these priorities are your “business.”
- Prepare – If the next partnership/network meeting has been scheduled, get your facilitation team together before that meeting.
- Have a check-in with each other to review how things are going with partnership or network
- Agree on what needs particular attention
- Review the planned agenda
- And agree on what the most vital outcomes to try to achieve are.
- Communicate – Develop a pattern of copying everyone else on the facilitation team when e-mails are sent on partnership business. Include all members in the flow of communication. Consider using one of the many digital meeting/messaging platforms that are now available to give you face-to-face contact. Agree on what/when your regular facilitation team connections will happen. It’s always better to have more communication than less!
5. Develop a prayer strategy
One final but essential word. Build on a secure foundation of faith, humility, and dependency of God. God’s word speaks clearly to us about our plans versus God’s directing. Our man-made attempts versus his infused power. It is God who brings the growth.
Psalm 127, a wonderful Psalm of Ascent says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it, labor in vain.” This is the Lord’s work. Networks and partnerships that go the distance and are fruit-bearing are ones bathed in prayer. They have established a prayer strategy, usually, a special intercessory team that regularly enters the throne-room of God. Connect with at least one of the global prayer networks such as Ethne so that your network’s prayer team has a bigger docking place to exponentially fuel your prayer efforts.
These are five high level action steps that will help you maintain the momentum gained in your new network or partnership. These will help you reach greater heights and velocity as you seek to accomplish your shared vision.