The purpose of working with risk and conflict mitigation is to apply a structured approach to identifying and mitigating the factors and influences that make it uncertain, whether the partnership and the joint project will achieve its objectives.
Risks associated with cross-sector partnerships are varied and plentiful, and they are easily forgotten in the enthusiasm for potential benefits from your new partnership.
Partnership risk and conflict mitigation can serve the following purposes:
- Increase the likelihood for the projects to achieve its objectives.
- Improve mutual stakeholder and partner confidence and trust.
- Establish a reliable basis for decision-making and project planning.
- Improve effectiveness, efficiency and internal collaboration between partners.
Effective management of your partnership and risks starts with a solid risk identification and risk assessment.
Most of the elements within this guideline comprise one or more risk management activities, i.e. activities that either help to identify risks, assess risks or mitigate risks.
Risk management should be an integrated part of your partnership due diligence, both when you initiate the partnership and when you manage the partnership on a continuous basis.
The general concept of a risk assessment is that you start by identifying a long list of risks that link to the different areas and activities of the partnership and project cycle. Some of these will be important and others will not.
You should focus on understanding and reducing the few very important risks and less so on listing all possible risks. Be open to the fact that different organisations can view these risks differently.
Typically a risk assessment comprises four main steps:
Understand your risk profile
Analyse your most important risks
Decide on how to best mitigate these risks
Responding to crises or disputes
The process of engaging in cross-sector partnerships does not always go smoothly, and it often depends heavily on the motivation of the people involved.
If you show trust and demonstrate transparency towards your partners, many conflicts can be managed through informal discussion.
In some cases, as a last resort, you may need to resolve significant disputes by using a formal process.
It is advisable that you establish a process for this when you initiate the partnership and describe this in your Memorandum of Understanding / Partnership Agreement. Consider also to include a mediation provision.
Typically, a mediation provision comprises two steps:
- In case of significant conflict between you and a partner, you meet with the highest management level in either partner organisation to settle the dispute amicably.
- If this does not work, you engage an external party approved by both sides to mediate between you and your partner. If a dispute cannot be settled amicably, you should consider terminating the partnership, as you will probably not be able to re-stablish the necessary trust between you and your partners.