Partnering with the Community
Guiding Principle # 6
Effective communication strategies allow partners to break down the barriers that traditionally separate them.
Actions and Considerations
Be clear about your communication goals. Partners in a NORC program need to communicate in order to:
- Share information to make decisions.
- Keep one another up to date.
- Take the pulse of stakeholders.
- Identify and solve problems.
- Strategize about new actions.
- Develop new projects.
- Provide checkpoints along a project implementation pathway.
- Get the community on board. (For more about connecting with the larger community, see Partnering with the Community, Guiding Principle #7.)
Decide how information should be shared among NORC program partners. Not everyone needs to be involved in everything, but there should be a consensus about how communication will occur, and with whom.
Manage the agenda of your meetings. A well-run partnership meeting supports well-managed partnership relationships. You’ll want to pay careful attention to detail during the planning process and clarify the purpose of every meeting. Every partner should understand why a meeting has been called and what results are expected. Create some general guidelines for how often the partners will meet as a group.
Develop multiple avenues of communication. There are many ways to communicate—formally and informally, verbally and in writing, on a one-to-one basis and in groups. Different approaches—including telephone conference calls, e-mail, a website or intranet, and memos—work better or worse in different situations. As a partnership grows and new needs arise, existing communication channels may need to shift and expand.
Continually build and maintain a communication loop so that everyone feels connected. To keep people informed:
- Decide what information is important enough to share.
- Make sure your partners understand the information they are given.
- Be inclusive and open to what others say.
- Decide on the actions you will take.
- Close the loop by updating your partners about issues you have previously discussed.
- Be sure to report on success.
- Say “thanks” frequently.
- Keep notes at every meeting, and circulate them widely.
Expect differences of opinion. Differences inevitably arise in the course of any partnership. Show by your actions that you understand and respect your partners, even if you do not always agree. Here are some communication strategies that can lead to productive outcomes:
- Discuss challenges as soon as they arise.
- Decide whether issues are better resolved by all of the partners or by a subgroup.
- Be genuinely interested in the perspectives others bring to the table.
- Listen, and ask questions. Don’t make assumptions about someone else’s viewpoint.
- Look for areas of agreement.
- Keep the discussion focused on outcomes and results. If the desired impact of the partnership is clear, it will be easier to find common ground.
Keep in Mind
Most people are already inundated with information. Plan your communication strategy recognizing that partners need to be kept up-to-date about progress, but not overwhelmed with every detail.