Partnerships: Straight Talk About their Meaning and Need

By Norma J. Goodwin MD,Founder and President, Health Power,  and Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH)

Partnerships:  Sharing Basic Principles 

Although the term Partnership is widely used, all too often, relationships within and among both individuals and organizations do not meet the desirable shared commitments to achieving  agreed upon purposes, including specific goals, objectives, approaches, and responsibilities.  Yet, meaningful collaborations and strategic alliances are very much needed  in order for  serious efforts to move forward aimed at movement from health disparities to health equity.

A fundamental belief of Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) is that health equity and social justice need to be pursued both within and through partnerships.   Over the last 15 years, they have studied, examined, engaged in, and evaluated what makes partnerships work, thus achieving the change they want to see in their communities. They report that  authentic, or true, partnerships best exist within a space that includes four specific elements:

1) Guiding Principles of Partnership,

2) Quality Processes,

3) Meaningful Outcomes, and

4) Transformative Experience(s).

Elements for an Authentic Partnership

Guiding Principles:

Health Power does not consider he CCPH Principles of Partnership below to apply to every situation, but rather to be used as a model for developing one’s own principles of partnership.

  1. The Partnership forms to serve a specific purpose and may take on new goals over time.
  2. The Partnership agrees upon mission, values, goals, measurable outcomes and processes for accountability.
  3. The relationship between partners in the Partnership is characterized by mutual trust, respect, genuineness, and commitment.
  4. The Partnership builds upon identified strengths and assets, but also works to address needs and increase capacity of all partners.
  5. The Partnership balances power among partners and enables resources among partners to be shared.
  6. Partners make clear and open communication an ongoing priority in the Partnership by striving to understand each other’s needs and self-interests, and developing a common language.
  7. Principles and processes for the Partnership are established with the input and agreement of all partners, especially for decision-making and conflict resolution.
  8. There is feedback among all stakeholders in the Partnership, with the goal of continuously improving the Partnership and its outcomes.
  9. Partners share the benefits of the Partnership’s accomplishments.
  10. Partnerships can dissolve, and when they do, need to plan a process for closure.
  11. Partnerships consider the nature of the environment within which they exist as a principle of their design, evaluation, and sustainability.
  12. The Partnership values multiple kinds of knowledge and life experiences.

Quality processes: Are relationship focused; open, honest, respectful and ethical; trust building; acknowledging of history; committed to mutual learning and sharing credit.

Meaningful outcomes: Should be  that are tangible and relevant to communities. For example: eliminating health disparities, creating affordable housing, closing the education gap and revitalizing rural economies.

Transformation: Occurs at multiple levels, including

  • Personal transformation, including self reflection and heightened political consciousness
  • Institutional transformation, including changing policies and systems
  • Community transformation, including community capacity building
  • Transformation of science and knowledge, including how knowledge is generated, used and valued and what constitutes “evidence” and “ethical practice”
  • Political transformation, including social justice

Principal Source: CCPH Board of Directors. Position Statement on Authentic Partnerships. Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, 2013, .

 Remember the Health Power tagline: Knowledge +Action = Power!
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