Partnering with the Community

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Guiding Principle # 7

A NORC program becomes woven into the fabric of the surrounding community through its partnerships.

Actions and Considerations

Invest time and energy to build support in the greater community. Over time, this investment can:

  • Sustain partnerships.
  • Promote connections that make it easier to gain access to resources and deliver services.
  • Establish alliances with political leaders and other leaders with influence.
  • Limit the capacity of naysayers to block progress.
  • Demonstrate that the NORC program is part of something larger than itself.
  • Highlight the partnership’s capacity to deliver results.
  • Enhance the lives of seniors and strengthen the community.
  • Influence public policy and legislation.

Keep current on “who’s who” in the community. The process of Understanding the Community called for identifying key leaders in the business, political, and nonprofit sectors, as well as representatives of the senior population. Staying current on the local players alerts you to changes in leadership and helps you expand your contacts as your program evolves.

Example: Stephanie Pinder, executive director of the Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center NORC program, in Manhattan (New York), is a prolific collector of business cards. Every time she attends a meeting in the community, she sweeps up cards from everyone there. When she gets back to her office, this information is immediately entered into a database. Those entered in the database get regular e-mail updates about the work of the NORC program.

Don’t shy away from power blockers. In every community there are people with the capacity to block or disrupt a partnership. Trying to exclude them can make a partnership appear to be a closed circle that is hostile to scrutiny or criticism.

A better approach is to give would-be power blockers a voice—their contrarian perspective can help a partnership define problems and identify barriers to implementation. Sometimes, a power blocker who is treated with respect and encouraged to participate constructively can even be transformed into an advocate.

Develop targeted strategies to reach new stakeholders. These steps can help you be effective:

  • Attend community meetings, even if they are not directly relevant to your program. Networking is an important part of leadership. Know what’s going on.
  • Decide what the NORC program wants from each new stakeholder. Be clear about desired results and measurable outcomes.
  • Find out what stakeholders think and where their self-interests lie. Understanding the interests of key people is essential before asking for their support.
  • If you have not already been in touch with a stakeholder, find someone who that person trusts to make the first approach. This may mean drawing on contacts outside your established partnership.
  • Where possible, reshape the message of your partnership to incorporate the stakeholder’s individual and organizational self-interests—without changing the essence of the project, of course.

Keep in Mind

Sharing results with stakeholders in the community is essential. People relish being associated with programs that are taking action and demonstrating accomplishment. Spread the word—to the media and to supporters, non-supporters, and potential supporters—when you have good news to share.

Use creative promotion, marketing, and networking to build broad support. You need to let people know that your NORC program is a unique, compelling, and distinctive asset to the community, and your own passion can help to communicate excitement. (For more about communication strategies, see Sustaining a NORC Program, Guiding Principle #4.)

You may find potential allies among people and organizations that are working in other ways to build better communities. Seek common ground, especially if they are focused on social change. Find ways to share resources.
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