6 Steps to Build Your Impact Partnership during Covid-19

Since the start of Covid-19, needs in the humanitarian and social business sector have increased tremendously. The decline in economic activity and restrictions have caused challenges with access to food and crucial services (medicine, education etc.) in many countries. Consequently, there is more need for partnerships to assist in the situation and find solutions. Travel restrictions however pose challenges: How can you start a partnership without even having met a new partner in person? Having build several successful new partnerships during this pandemic, I would like to share some lessons learned:

1.      Find a potential partner

Which field are you interested in? Join forums on your topics of passion where you might get in contact with potential partners. This could mean joining online conferences and webinars or reaching out through LinkedIn. Think out of the box – you might even find a potential partner on a platform like Tiktok or Instagram. They have several great accounts to follow, get in contact with and possibly build a partnership with. You can also ask in your network for suitable partners: This offers you the advantage that someone might already have great experience with that partner which diminishes your risk.

2.      Do your research and ask for references

Yes, it is not ideal – Usually I would follow my usual passion and meet partners locally to get a feeling of the project situation and them myself. But in the meantime, check out the organisation and their leadership online: Website, social media, google reviews… Ask for references by the organisation or company itself. This could be past partners or even personal references.

Additionally, you can ask local contacts to get a better understanding of the situation. Although I am very experienced internationally, I obviously do not know the situation in each country. So I ask several of my local contacts in the country to visit or get in contact otherwise to evaluate the potential of the partnership. If I do not know any one locally myself, I get contacts from my network. This will not give you a guarantee of a perfect partnership, but great additional insights.

3.      Start small

Due to the restrictions of Covid-19, we do not have the chance to build up partnership in a regular way. This does bring more risks with it. So start small in your project to see the reliability and dynamics in your partnership. Do not start with a project in the hundred-thousands or millions right away but do a pilot first (a generally good rule of thumb anyways). The pilot project will show you the work and communication style of your partner, the commitment and reliability. If anything displeases you or the other side, you can change the mode of cooperation, the project or halt the partnership. If the pilot goes well, you can scale up to bigger projects after.

4.      Regular and diverse communication

The partnership is also build throughout the collaboration together. Communication does not need to be restricted to emails. Instead, use all tools available nowadays: How about joining the project start live via Videocall for the inauguration ceremony? Or how about a quick morning coffee together with the team via Whatsapp video call to discuss the plans of the day? Regular reporting can extend from a normal paper report, to update videos and photos send or voice messages by project participants. In one of my projects, we have employed #blockchain technology which supported to project communication.

5.      Be patient

Beware that the situation for your partners can be challenging due to Covid-19 regulations, so they might not have the same possibilities as during “normal” times. This can mean restrictions in movement, staff or capital. Something as simple as accessing a scanner to send the signed partnership contract might be difficult. Have patience and an open ear for your partners to find solutions together.

6.      Have fun with it!

And my main advice always: Have fun with it! A partnership can be a lot of work yes, but it can also be a great energizer for you to have someone to brainstorm with on new ideas, share the workload, a good laugh and to celebrate successes together.

Pictures: Mercy for Youth & Women Empowerment (myweuganda.org), partner of @YESS Impact, @Dabrine Kagalula Mathew

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