The DeHavilland Blog

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Building effective partnerships – advice from coalitions

In our new survey, “Business Coalition Leaders Speak Out on Education,” we asked survey respondents to comment on the lessons they’ve learned from working with schools and districts and to offer advice on becoming attractive partners and on building effective partnerships. Due to space considerations, we weren’t able to include all of the responses in the survey report, so I wanted to share them all here on the blog.

This is the third of three posts, and provides responses to the open-ended question:

“What other advice would you give to schools in general on developing stakeholder relationships?”

The 55 responses received were as follows:


Again, business needs need to be heard. It is important that coalitions and stakeholder groups are equally balanced with business and education people. Usually every school organization has a seat in stakeholders group and business has one or two spots. Most of the education groups align with each other and business views get ignored.

Appoint a staff person to be the contact.

Be a willing and engaged partner. Typically the stakeholder relationship is extremely affected by level of engagement in whatever process.

BE BOLD! GO FOR THE STEP CHANGE!

Be consistent. Be open to suggestions, welcoming to the "outside."

Be flexible and establish protocols for contact.

Be flexible in how problems are solved.

Be honest about needs and ability to carry out long-term improvement plans that require results-based accountability.

Be open to changing relationships.

Be proactive in seeking assistance--have specific needs identified and be receptive to change.

Be welcoming...we're here to assist the schools, not spy on them. Drop the excuse "We've always done it this way."

Be willing to devote the time and effort necessary to make the partnership work. Don't go into the partnership expecting more than is possible. Follow through with commitments.

Be willing to help us gather resources to ensure best outcomes.

Be willing to participate in community and business events outside of school events.

Be willing to sit at the table and listen to what partners have to say. And involve partners in helping with legislative initiatives that impact schools, i.e. mandates, funding. Inform and educate without feeling defensive about perceptions that some stakeholders may have. Broaden the district staff who can participate.

Celebrate their successes.

Communication is key - we have an ex-officio position on the Board that provides that communication.

Consider partnerships with coalitions as having a "public relations" component. It is a way to positively (or negatively) affect the public's opinion of the job being done to educate the community's children.

Both sides need to "give" to the success of the project. If a school or district only wants the resources that might come from a project without a serious commitment to using those resources to improve student outcomes in workforce and higher-education readiness, then the partnership is not likely to be meaningful.

Contact your Tech Prep partnership.

Develop and maintain open communications, invitations to co-construct concepts, shared decision making processes. Think creatively.

Do not be defensive! The entire community has a stake in the educational system being successful and everyone understands that schools, teachers and administrators cannot make successful students all by themselves.

Don't ask for money; there are MANY ways business and the community can provide resources to education, such as used equipment, time, talents of employees, and training (professional development opportunities).

Don't just ask for funds - make sure you want "involvement" and that you’re willing to be totally transparent in your dealings with the community.

Education and business must work together to clearly define requirements, expectations, and constraints. Neither side understands the other and we must break down those barriers. Employ basic people skills.

Follow through and keep open communication.

It takes time to build relationships.

Just because a business organization, particularly a membership organization, is focused on fueling the pipeline for talent, and on economic development, doesn't mean they are your public servants. You are not paying their salaries, their members are. To the extent your goals align and collaboration is a true partnership, much can happen. No one can do it all by themselves.

Know that when they get involved with the business community, the business community expects results....quickly and measurable.

Know what their objective is - what do they want to achieve. Don't enter partnership for vague purposes.

Listen first. Find out what business' impetus is in connecting with education.

Listen. Be receptive to input from non-educators. Break the mold.

Look beyond your school, neighborhood and district. School officials needs support at the state level, and can not rely on their associations to represent them alone. If they want funding, reform, etc. they must make sure key constituents know who they are and what there needs are. Make "the case" to those that matter most.

Make sure that all stakeholders have the same mission as your school. "To make sure that each child gets the best possible preparation for the future."

Make the partnerships real in terms of curriculum development, resource sharing, etc. Don't offer a lunch with a "dog and pony show" about your program and then escort business folks out the door...they will keep walking.

Make the time to discuss the concerns of the community in order to get to constructive discussion of how the community members can be solution-oriented.

Mean it -- don't simply seek short-term source of funding or new program.

Most schools already have processes for developing stakeholder relationships with parents, taxpayers, etc. However, they need to improve their relationships by getting input on what the business community really needs from the educational system. Business needs to tell educators what they need instead of educators telling business what educational programs are needed. Schools teach a lot of theory with very little application that translate to business operations.

Must be two way partnership with commitment all the way from the top down to the people who will implement. Cannot be an appointee who does not believe in this nor can it be a teacher who doesn’t have the authority to implement.

Open and maintain a regular and ongoing dialogue with the school's major influencers, i.e. corporate community, local government, local colleges and universities, local community organizations.

Openness to work with external parties - focused on the school's and partner's shared goals.

Partnerships do not develop overnight; individuals have relationships -- organizations do not. Demonstrate long term commitment; not another "flash in the pan."


Realize (admit) that we have problems in math/science education and that it takes the efforts of all key stakeholders to improve the situation.

Recognize their value and that there needs to be on-going dialog and contact.

Schools are often a one way street -- what can the school get out of the relationship -- never what can they give. I realize everybody is coming at them but they have a role in the community they need to play--sadly, often they do not play it!

Seek relationships that contribute to your identified priorities.

Share the great things that are going on in the school, capitalizing on the strengths, while looking at ways to improve.

Take a business approach to the relationship where all stakeholders receive some level of benefit/gain from the "transaction."

To come to the table as a two way street, not just with hands out, but with ears open.

To not only be looking for money and to follow - through on their end of the partnership.

Trust is important. Deliver on every promise you make. Think long term. Don't get sidetracked by short-term fixes and knee-jerk responses to the emergency du jour.

Understand it is a partnership - not a vendor relationship. Respect the partnership.
Understand that there is more to having their students be successful than mastering the three r's. They need to stress soft skills.

You have concerns. Tell us what they are. Most problems can be worked around. Help us keep the focus on what is best for students. Tell us when we get in the way - instruction comes first! Hold well-organized and effective (short) meetings (presuming that business partners are used to this). It's okay to share credit for success.



To see the answers to other open-ended survey questions, you can go to:

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