Partnering with the Community

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Guiding Principle # 2

Core partners align their goals and priorities.

Actions and Considerations

Develop a program mission. Developing a broad mission statement is one of the early activities of a newly formed partnership because it helps to guide all partners towards the same results. Once a mission statement is in place, keep it visible—attach the statement itself, or a tagline from it, to correspondence, and display it prominently at meetings. Example Mission Statement

Mission Statement Worksheet

Emphasize contributions that support the goals of the NORC program. Be specific about why core partners are invited in and what you need from them. Be sure potential partners understand what is not appropriate – for example, an organization cannot serve only one segment of the NORC. Unless they agree on goals, people may come to the table only because funding is available, not because they are prepared to revise their programmatic habits in service to a larger purpose.

Uncover the self-interest of your partners. To align your partners with your mission and keep them there, learn what they need and want. When a partner’s self-interest is in line with that of the NORC program, a win-win is possible. Be wary of partners who are not fully committed to the mission.

Example: One partner agency came into a NORC program with an agenda that conflicted with the program’s larger mission. Eventually, it became clear that the agency was interested in enrolling seniors in its own activities, not in advancing the NORC program. When the other partners became fully aware of the competing effort, that partner was asked to leave. The incident reminded everyone that overall program goals take precedence over narrower partner interests.
Help your partners understand the value of engaged seniors. Many health and social service professionals have never worked on equal footing with older people before. They are often more accustomed to viewing seniors as clients or volunteers than as colleagues working towards the same goal. An effective leader can help them view seniors in new ways, and create new roles for them.

Keep in Mind

Every partner operates in a different political environment and has a unique organizational culture. Personal and organizational history, mission, governance, funding, constituency, and countless other factors influence how everyone becomes involved. Respecting these differences helps everyone move past them, strengthening the collaborative capacity of the NORC program.

Joining a partnership means taking a risk. Partners often have to give up something—such as a degree of autonomy or longstanding habits of service delivery—to achieve larger goals. Taking that leap of faith makes sense only for a partner who understands the mission of the NORC program and believes in it.

In successful partnerships, all the partners learn as they go. Acknowledge your progress, learn from mistakes, and revise your work together as necessary.

Continue to Guiding Principle #3
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