Do your homework

Ten Lessons on multi-stakeholder partnerships, Lesson 3

So now things are moving- you’ve planted the seeds for a successful development partnership. What’s next? Learn, learn, learn…

An early research and analysis phase allows partnerships to diagnose issues correctly (situation analysis), to assess the interests of those to be involved (stakeholder analysis) and to develop the right approach (process design).

Situation analysis

While each of our partnerships has had the intention of generating innovation on a given development challenge, we have wanted to ensure that we begin with a firm grasp of what has already been tried, what works and what doesn’t. We have typically employed a mix of tools, both analytical and experiential, at this stage.

For example, the Namibia project was informed by a significant piece of analysis on the performance of the Ministry of Health and Social Services. This research was a powerful way to get the attention of senior leaders. However, we developed an approach that went beyond facts and figures in order to enable people within the healthcare system to see it with new eyes. As a complement to the analytical work, we facilitated a series of ‘learning journeys’ which enabled senior healthcare leaders to get out of the office and to ‘walk in the shoes’ of nurses, administrators, and clinicians at other levels within the system. This helped top leaders to re-perceive the system and to see problems, challenges, and opportunities more clearly, as a result of first-hand experience. Taken together, the analytical work and the experiential learning generated political will for change and also helped pinpoint some key areas of highest leverage where intervention would yield the highest pay-off.

Stakeholder analysis

Stakeholder analysis is another key analytical tool we use to develop and manage partnerships. In each partnership, we construct a stakeholder “map” that identifies the organizations and individuals with a stake in the effort, traces the linkages between them and details perceived interests and the ability to influence outcomes. Stakeholders are sorted into different categories, differentiating them along a continuum from those whose engagement is critical to achieve outcomes to those who simply need to be kept informed. We develop detailed relationship management plans to ensure that we are engaging each stakeholder as proactively and thoughtfully as possible.

Process Design

The adage “good process leads to good outcomes” could not be more true. We invest time at the beginning stages of a partnership to develop a detailed process design, mapping out when and how we will engage stakeholders over time in order to achieve the desired results. Synergos has developed its own open-source, partnership process framework, which is called the Synergos Inclusive Partnerships Lifecycle. The Lifecycle is tailored to each specific context, but also offers general guidance on forming and managing the main stages of a complex partnership. The Lifecycle draws on another framework called Theory-U. Theory-U is a general theory of stimulating social innovation, developed by Otto Sharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Peter Senge and Betty Sue Flowers. In applying Theory-U, Synergos has worked in partnership with the Presencing Institute.

Ten Lessons on Multi-stakeholder Partnerships draws from Synergos’ experience helping to create sustainable solutions to complex development problems at scale.