Finding and Nurturing Partners


Phase 1-- Between now and March 13:
Phase 2- Between March 13 and March 20

1. How do you find partners/networks that can help your organization learn and better achieve your purpose; how do you make these relationships deeper and more powerful Laura, Shilpa, Chris, Patty, Mariam

Working in the area you chose in class, between now and March 13, write and post on the appropriate wiki page two or three entries (a couple of hundred words, maximum, each) that address some key aspect of what leaders should know about that area. Your entry may draw from your own experience, a reading (either something you read on your own, or on the common reading list), or a guest speaker or website. Please use footnotes as appropriate. Put your name on the entry.

These entries will serve as the raw material for the next round of the wiki development.

Finding and Nurturing Networks

In order to identify the most suitable and effective partners for networking, there must be an incentive to join. Much like a good sales pitch, most customers respond to the “what’s in it for me” jargon.
Incentive to collaborate often grows from a crisis-type situation. For example, Chrislip (2002) describes how “gridlock and stalemate provide compelling reasons for working together”. Tom DelPrete of Clark University (Worcester, MA) wanted to improve the neighborhood surrounding the university. To encourage long-time renters to buy, he needed to provide an incentive. His answer was to offer free tuition to the residents. DelPrete’s vision for the neighborhood allowed him to take advantage of available resources to mobilize others in collaboration.
In addition, Chrislip (2002) asserts that the “usual” and the “unusual” voices be engaged in an effective network. Ideally, citizens of the surrounding geographic community are included for grassroots consultation. Their voices “reflect rather than represent” (p. 52) the diversity of the community itself.
DelPrete’s advice is similar. He conveys the importance of knowing the political and social culture of the community in order to identify leverage points that can be used in future dealings. Moving forward, knowledge of community culture contributes to the formation of a viable vision. Finally, DelPrete cautions against relying on good faith; listening to the citizens of Worcester made his project successful (A604 lecture, Teitel, 2/13/09).
Patricia DePalma

In a 1999, ABC Nightline episode, a task is given to IDEO, the largest and most innovative industrial product design firm in the world. The Silicon Valley-based company is told to take an old and familiar object, and redesign it in just a few days. The object is a shopping cart.
The manner in which IDEO approaches this task is illuminating when considering the formation of networking teams and what makes them successful. IDEO employees are experts on the process of design. Yet, their talents span from engineering to psychology to education to art. Just like the IDEO team, a solid networking team requires a good mix of talented people with varying backgrounds, both personal and professional.
At IDEO, the leader or engineer is a people person. However, there is no fixed hierarchical structure besides the leader. All others act as equals.
Breaking into smaller, functional groups allows more productive brainstorming to occur. More ideas are generated and they tend to be of higher quality. Large group brainstorming is often misguided. It is not as effective as previously thought because of certain socio-psychological factors that impede the most creative brainstorming from occurring (2020 lecture, Ely, 2009). When small groups or solo thinkers return to the large group, there is no filtering of ideas. A “focused chaos” brings all ideas to the table to be vetted.
Visible symbols including signage easily and regularly communicate mission. One of IDEO’s sayings is “fail often to succeed sooner.” (Ted Koppel, Nightline, 1999). The deepest and most powerful networks take chances and risk failure. After five days of redesigning the shopping cart, many prototypes were thrown to the curb before arriving at the desired product. So too, will many ideas in a network be cast aside before capturing the big idea.
Patricia DePalma

Morriss, Ely and Frei (2009) make a call for potential leaders to get off the bench and get in the game. In the realm of leadership, the demand is larger than the supply. They claim this is due to a tendency for people to maximize their strengths and potential opportunities while minimizing their weaknesses and potential threats by playing the preferred “security game” (Morriss, et al, p. 4).
True leadership is often an unsecured gamble, but its’ ends are justified. When a team of leaders has the common goal of serving others rather than themselves, the end justifies the means. In order to maintain stronger and deeper networks, it is crucial to find a common, worthy cause.
Morriss et al (2009) believe the best leaders are not “lonely at the top”; rather, they are part of a team that believes in the leader’s goals. That team could be composed of professional peers, friends, and even a spouse. This aspect of partnering extends beyond the workplace and makes it possible for a leader to truly expand their network by finding various forms of support systems. When work makes up a significant portion of one’s life, the personal life balance must be conducive to the demands of his/her professional goals.
Tying it all together, there are open tryouts for all potential leaders: Get off the bench! Just be sure to pursue a worthy cause and to identify a strong support team.
Patricia DePalma

Connecting the dots
Valdis Krebs (2008) from highlights how working in silos can lead to stagnation. To innovate and grow, isolated clusters must build bridges between them. In this process, previously unconnected organizations can reach out and find new partners. I think that this is what happened at Roca. Roca, the police, and the city were isolated clusters. Until such a time that Molly Baldwin reached out to the other clusters, all three clusters seemed to be going no where. Chris Lynch, Carl Sussman, and Tom DelPrete also reached out to other organizations to form unique partnerships.

On a practical note, it might be difficult to identify potential partners if your current process of working does not include a method to identify partners and collaborators. If you are inward focused, sometimes it needs an external person to show you the way. If you are too external focused, you might miss out on potential internal partners.

Reed's Law and the Most Powerful Grandma
We are all Kevin Bacons, connected to vast and various invisible and traceable networks whose members are largely unknown to us. They have access to you and you have access to them. Scary? What is really scary is the dormant power inside of these networks. In "The Law of the Pack" (Harvard Business Review, February 2001), David P. Reed coined "Reed's Law" which states that the value (power) of a network grows faster than the number of its members. So what is your power share and how do you increase it within the networks to which you currently belong?

Lois Weisberg, a "grandmother who lives in a big house in Chicago" became famous in Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" as a person who "seems to be connected to everybody." Her strategy for finding and nurturing partners is actually quite simple:

1) She reaches out to somebody (or organization) outside her normal world
2) She gets that person (or organization) to respond to her
3) She integrates them into the most fitting area of her network

After that, partnerships form more easily, as would-be partners have at least one point in common (Ms. Weisberg) and can move forward more easily. Lois' power, by contributing to the network, grows. By fostering partnering among constituents within your own network, you are fostering your own potential partnerships as well.

The Discipline of Humility:
Wendy Wheeler of the organization, Roca (, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, espouses the dual practices of humility and “namaste,” which she defines as literally “I bow to you.” Wheeler refuses to take credit for the successes young people make for themselves, so the namaste (or amen, or bravo) should never be uttered as self-congratulatory rhetoric ( Molly Baldwin of Roca says that the key to Roca’s organizational success in partnering with other community resources, most notably the police department, is simply putting in the work to truly get to know the people one needs to partner with. When Roca practices peace circles, in which diverse participants sit in a circle and take turns speaking by passing a feather from person to person, the circles help to bring everyone together at a relatively raw emotional level. Such an experience contributes toward building a mutual understanding among diverse community members who previously felt they were disconnected and ultimately at odds with each other. The Chelsea Police Captain, Keith Houghton, described the dramatic effect of his first participation in a peace circle with Molly, her staffers, and local community youth who deeply distrusted the police as being a personally revelatory experience for himself and other officers. Such discussions are extremely difficult and require trust and even faith. Whether these discussions occur in the relative emotional safety of a peace circle, over coffee at the police station, or late at night during a potentially violent confrontation between youth, Roca staff, and police, Molly says that there’s no shortcut. “You’ve got to put in the time. There’s no way around it” (class visit, February 20, 2009). Humility and a willingness to admit our vulnerabilities to those we feel at odds with is, in the end, the only way deep partnerships can be created in the first place. (Laura Ellis-Lai)

Transformative Partnerships:
In “School/University Collaboration: The Power of Transformative Partnerships,” Lee Teitel describes a sort of nonlinear continuum of partnering that ranges from no connection to transactional partnering, to transformative partnering (at the most sophisticated and deeply effective stage). While other models of partnership exist, Teitel’s model privileges the idea of “spontaneous renewal” in which transformative partnerships become more lasting and mutually influential by virtue of partners’ willingness to trust in each other, discuss uncomfortable topics, and take risks during collaborative projects. Ultimately, such partnerships are more efficient and effective, though they require both (or all) parties to assume joint ownership over the work they endeavor towards together. Partners must work past normal practices of avoiding conflict and create the time and space to ask critical and reflective questions of themselves and each other. Key practices of mutually transformative partners include identifying suitable partners, being willing to change, co-creating a healthy interdependency, and avoiding complacency. (Laura Ellis-Lai)