The DeHavilland Blog

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is this right?

I've been thinking a lot about partnership scale lately - it seems that people operate in different partnership "zones", and leaving that orientation unstated can create some confusion and differing messages.

Take a look at the following graphic and brief description below:

In this graphic, there are four types of partnerships:

  • The outer ring is made up of Impersonal Support - the many ways that people help the schools without any significant interaction with students or staff. Examples of this would be people donating food or door prizes for events, volunteering to clean up school grounds on a weekend, giving free meeting space, and the like. There's no relationship, and the work these people do has no effect on school operations.
  • Next up is Peripheral Support. This category includes more hands-on partnership activities, but that do not affect the way the school or district goes about its business. Examples include mentoring, career days, internships, career/college preparedness programs, reading sessions and the like.
  • Substantial Partnerships is next. In these partnerships, the school or district alters the way it operates as a result of the partner intervention. Examples include Operation Excellence, in which business leaders in Montgomery County (MD) worked with district leaders to analyze and improve district operations; the work of the Simon Foundation, which provides free space in malls so that districts can open alternative learning centers; or the Gowan Project, where an ag-tech company invested in new technology, teachers, and extra support (field trips, etc.) for advanced students in a school.
  • True Integration is last, and represents situations where schools and their stakeholders become true partners, having a say in defining the purpose of education and collaboratively determining how to achieve their commonly-set goals. An example would be the academies of the National Academy Foundation, which use customized career-specific curricula and rely on local businesspeople for significant portions of the learning process.

I'm still playing around with this; if nothing else, the clunky category headers have got to be zazzed up some. But I'd certainly welcome feedback on this line of thought...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The power of personal relationships

As I talk with people about their work on partnerships, there’s one ‘success factor’ that stands out more than others in many working programs: the power of personal relationships.

As one example, I spoke yesterday with two partnership leaders about a strong and growing chamber-led mentoring program. The program was based on sound thinking – mentoring has a strong body of research proving its value – but without a strong community network, the program would never have grown beyond a single mentoring relationship.

The program was created after a local business leader, one with a long history of supporting local schools, began mentoring a few high school students. Convinced of the many benefits of mentoring, both for students and for businesspeople/mentors, this banker approached the chamber about spearheading a larger-scale program. His standing in the community put weight behind his proposal, and they got behind it. Over the past few years the program has taken root and grown, with many area businesspeople signing on for a three-year mentoring commitment, and many others offering to host tours and mentoring sessions at their businesses.

This program succeeded thanks to the willingness of a handful of people to tap their personal relationships. After the chamber adopted this program, the founding businessperson went to his Rolodex and enlisted his personal contacts – other area business leaders – to participate. The district’s partnership office supported this outside program by promoting it through their channels and by encouraging school-level officials to identify students and make it easy for them to participate. Interestingly, one of the district’s partnership staff members ended up joining the chamber to run the program, further strengthening the ties between the chamber and district in ways that will undoubtedly help in the program’s growth.

Over the course of writing several case studies and talking with many more people, it’s become ever clearer that establishing and leveraging personal and professional relationships is a critical success factor in program development. They may not be a key component in the success of every partnership, but it’s evident that they can make your work significantly easier, and that the prospects for the success and growth of your program are much greater if you have internal and external supporters willing to commit to your work.