At the outset of each partnership, it is critical to come to agreement on how the partnership will be managed, how decisions are to be made and who has the authority to do what with respect to the terms of the partnership. Key questions to ask:
Establish or formalize the relationship when this is appropriate. Depending on the nature of the partnership, this may be in the form of a contract, a Memorandum of Understanding or it may be more informal such as a signed letter of agreement. In any case, the document would specify the purpose of the partnership, name the members and establish their roles and be clear about the expectations and associated responsibilities for the partners. Many of the process principles outlined in the sections below should be incorporated into the partnership agreement.
Partners should define what constitutes a potential for a conflict or perceived conflict of interest, particularly with entities that receive public funds but who also have a place at a collaborative table.
All stakeholders or partners by definition are responsible for supporting a partnership. Often the structure of the partnership helps defines the roles. For example, in a contractual relationship, the parties may negotiate the partnership strategy, but then the public child welfare agency may assume a leadership role in monitoring the relationship, gathering information, reporting on progress and then soliciting input for improvement.
It is equally important to establish ground rules with clients and consumers which will govern the relationship when engaged in a partnership with the agency.