The third attribute for succeeding in cross sector relationships and partnerships is to be a pioneer. ‘A pioneer is someone who starts something new,’ and one of the best ways to become a pioneer in a cross sector relationship is to simply start something, no matter how small. This advice isn’t counter to big, expansive and ambitious thinking, but is about timing and pace. Starting small in cross sector relationships and partnerships has some important foundational benefits including that they:
- Prove the working model or not
- Allow for an iteration of feedback and improvements
- Grow shared operational understanding
- Develop mutual confidence between the partners
- Provide evidence to make a strong business case for greater resources
Rachel became aware of the social issue that the 1.4 million children who receive free school dinners in term time can often go hungry in the holidays. She telephoned three friends and inspired them to make lunch in the holidays and work with their local school to invite the right children. A project that started small as a partnership between community groups and schools in three locations has now scaled to 56 locations and fed 11,500 children last year.
The danger of going for something big too soon is that you may find yourself locked in a long and slow bureaucratic process. So if you want to develop a cross sector relationship and partnership, pioneer something new and small together, like Rachel. Realise the benefits of something small; it is easier to be innovative, different and risky. In fact, small is beautiful.
Once something small works, you can create an evidence base to demonstrate its impact. At this point it’s much easier to make a case for the cross sector relationship and partnership to be resourced on a much larger scale in order to increase the impact.