The purpose of defining clear governance structures, lines of responsibility and authority for your partnership is for every partner to know exactly what they bring to the partnership, what to expect from the others, and what is to be achieved together.
A clear, documented governance structure can serve the following purposes:
- Create a positive and efficient relationship between partners.
- Identify relevant stakeholders.
- Increase the success rate of the partnership.
- Minimise disputes, misunderstandings and inefficiency within the partnership.
- Avoid dominance of certain partners.
- Ensure accountability for activities.
- Serve as a governance document to revert to if challenges arise, including if there are changes in staff during the project.
There is no one-size-fits-all governance structure for all partnerships. Partnerships might comprise two partners or multiple partners across sectors, and you should scale your governance structure to fit your partnership.
In order to be successful, partnerships rely upon a range of important ‘people skills’ among partners. It is recommended that these skills be taken into account, when you appoint the partnership manager.
Among these people skills are;
- Ability to share other perspectives
- Listening and communication skills
- Relationship and trust building
- Advocacy and networking skills
- Facilitation and mentoring
- Mediation and conflict resolution experience
Depending on the nature and complexity of the partnership, the suggested organisational structure comprises 2-3 levels:
Level 1: Strategic
The Governance Group is a strategic function / steering group or similar body comprising representatives from all partners involved. This group is overall responsible for achieving the objectives of the partnership. Participants at this level must play a central role in their organisation and have the man-date to decide on major changes and resources, as they are responsible for high-level decision-making in the partnership. A primary responsibility of the Governance Group is to ensure ongoing management involvement and top management buy-in from the involved partner organisations.
The strategic level oversees the Memorandum of Understanding / Partnership Agreement document.
Level 2: Tactical
The Partnership / Project Group assumes responsibility for progressing the joint project and complet-ing the tasks set in the project plan. Level 2 should preferably comprise one project manager from each organisation, including local partners, with the mandate to act and make day-to-day decisions. Progress made by the Project Group feeds into level 1.
The group should agree on a ‘modus operandi’ with fixed and regular meeting intervals. The tactical level manages the Project Plan.
Level 3: Implementing
The Implementing Group ensures the execution of the various activities and deliverables specified in the project plan. Level 3 comprises representatives from all the local partners and they report directly to the Project Group. At the implementing level, each partner implements their respective Terms of Reference/Agreed work.