When people join their efforts to accomplish a shared vision, they can go so much further than if they were to go alone. In Mergon we believe in the power of partnerships to unlock the potential for disproportionate impact. Because God’s design for human flourishing requires the participation of all God’s people, the act of taking hands and ‘going together’ is a crucial strategy that underpins everything we do.
Why partnerships are key to impact management reporting
Over the years we have asked ourselves what it means to stand beside others in our efforts to bring about real change. How do we position ourselves as true partners who bring not just our finances, skills, knowledge and networks, but our very selves to the relationship? Likewise, as our partners offer their expertise and very selves to the relationship, how can we keeping learning from their wisdom and experience? These are questions that shape our partnership journey, whether in the Foundation, investment team, or alongside business leaders with whom we partner in South Africa and across the continent.
Within the social impact sector, where Nation Builder serves, social investors and non-profit organisations (NPOs) recognise partnership as the foundational context within which effective and sustainable social impact takes place in South Africa. The following is taken from Nation Builder’s Impact Management Reporting Guideline, and specifically the learnings acquired in fostering healthy, sustainable partnerships between social investors and implementing organisations.
Impact management reporting is a communication vehicle to capture insights and lessons learnt along the partnership journey. It can serve as a powerful tool to foster trust, credibility and transparency while improving future work and decision making between partners in the social impact sector.
Have a look at the below diagram which unpacks the partnership process, followed by a description of each critical phase:
- Internal strategic planning
In this original phase, investors start by defining their purpose, requirements and impact objectives. What exactly is the problem they want to address and what steps need to be taken to address this problem? What will the solution look like along with the strategies, outcomes, outputs, and activities to see this vision come to life? This will require not only robust research to help guide a responsive strategy – it will require investors to define their ‘why’ which in turn defines their ‘who’ within the context of partnership.
- Define and design
Along with the initial planning phase, this early define and design phase is where organisations and businesses determine ‘who they are’ and what they stand for. Like in marriage, the idea that two halves make a whole doesn’t really work. You want partners who have clarity about their identity, coming together to work into an area where there is synergy and alignment. By defining a clear purpose and mandate, both social investors and implementing organisations set the stage for more efficient and targeted sourcing, screening and assessment down the line.
- Sourcing, screening and assessment
In this phase investors implement a partner sourcing strategy – either through referral, existing relationships, public disclosure or applications. Communicating your selection criteria clearly and publically is vital during this phase – prospective partners should be able to easily access and understand your conditions for eligibility. For example, depending on the sourcing strategy, this information could be made available on your website, along with application documentation and guidelines. Screening and assessment phases may include multiple stages in order to determine whether this relationship would be a ‘good fit’.
- Negotiation and formalisation process
It’s important that both parties bring their concerns, questions and expectations to the table in this formalising phase of the partnership. Both sides must feel comfortable to consider, negotiate and clarify their needs, so that they can confidently agree to all terms and conditions and how they will be practically implemented. It’s recommended to compile an ‘expectation checklist’ (see the Guideline’s example), so that courageous conversations can be had in the effort to lay strong relational foundations.
- Implementation, progress tracking and reporting
Having parameters and expectations clearly defined and funding allocations confirmed, this is the stage where partners ‘get to work’ – implementing the vision and seeing it come to life. Monitoring and tracking (data collection, analysis, insight development and reporting) happens continually, which in a healthy trust-based relationship allows for honest assessment and adaptive learning along the way. This phase will typically end with a close-out or summative assessment report to reflect the overall results achieved across the life of the partnership and its implementation. The final Impact Report will play a critical part in informing decisions during the partnership review and evaluation.
- Partnership, review and evaluation
This phase gives both parties an opportunity to reflect on how they have experienced the partnership to date. Were the goals, objectives and targets met, for example? If not, then why not, and what can we do differently into the future? Are the needs and context still the same, and are activities aligned and mutually beneficial? The answers to these questions will help determine the longevity of this partnership.
Are you interested to know more about impact reporting within the context of funding partnerships? Download your free copy of the Impact Management Reporting Guideline here.
Amongst other case stories included, you’ll learn about the Mergon Foundation’s strong relational approach to ministry partnerships, which lays the foundation for authentic relationships and sustainable social impact.
Want to know more about Nation Builder and how we inspire and equip South Africa’s business community to lead in effective social impact? Visit https://proudnationbuilder.co.za/.
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