- Take your organization through a step-by-step process to identify potential allies.
- Help identify the challenges your organization and the prevention community face in expanding alliances to include male-dominated groups, and discuss how to break through barriers.
- Develop priorities and next steps for building new partnerships.
- Help individuals challenge their own assumptions and biases about working with diverse institutions and organizations.
- Except for Step 1, this exercise is done in a group. (The group can be any size.)
- A facilitator is needed to encourage people to speak and take chances, since we are charting new territory. The facilitator should take care not to squash new or outrageous ideas, but also should not let the discussion get bogged down in one step.
- Participants might include a community coordinated response, staff and volunteers of a community organization, or the planning committee for an event.
- This exercise can be done at any time. However, your organization would benefit most by doing the exercise at the beginning of planning a new campaign or discussing a new approach to broaden your partnerships. You may also benefit from repeating this exercise a year later.
The times shown are minimums. Total minimum time is about 90 minutes (1.5 hours), but you will probably want 2.5 to 3 hours. You can do the exercise in one session, but it also works well divided in half: Steps 2–5 then 6–7, or Steps 2–6 then Step 7. Splitting the sessions allows a group to think about the first discussion before coming up with a plan.
Read the tool kit pages Build Partnerships and Organizational Alliances
Facilitator Tips: It’s important not to get bogged down in this opening step. The facilitator should keep it moving, try to keep it a bit light by using humor, and make sure no one gets into long speeches or a counseling session. The themes that come up here will be revisited in various ways later. It would be very easy for one person, or a wrong start, to derail this whole exercise.
Discussion Question 1
How do you feel about expanding alliances, including working with traditional male-dominated organizations?
Facilitator Tips: People will often give an overly optimistic “This is great” response that doesn’t take into account the realities of conflicting approaches, or an overly negative “circle the wagons” response. In either case, you’ll have to make concrete points to get people to explore their feelings, such as: “You’re saying you feel great about this, but how will you feel when an organization that believes women should be subservient to men, or an antichoice organization, says it wants to work with you to end wife assault?” Or, “How will you feel when your organization no longer faces an uphill battle for funding because you have so many allies?” Remember, you are not trying to make decisions at this stage, just exploring feelings.
Discussion Question 2
Imagine we might be working closely with people who, in the past, you didn’t see as potential allies. How do you feel about working with them?
Facilitator Tips: In preparation, think of organizations or individuals you know would be the greatest challenge to work with (but not so great that you wouldn’t consider working with them).
Step 3: Obstacles and Isolation
Discussion Question 3
What are the factors that keep our organization and the violence-prevention community more or less isolated?
Facilitator Tips: This can include everything from the prevailing political and social climate to sexist biases and past mistakes our organizations have made.
Discussion Question 4
How do mainstream organizations perceive our organization (or its constituent parts)?
Facilitator Tips: You can mention specific organizations and ask people to imagine what they’d say in private about your organization. Encourage single descriptive words.
Discussion Question 5
If you haven’t already covered this in the previous two questions: How do men perceive our organization’s work or efforts to end violence against women?
Discussion Question 6
How do these perceptions act as obstacles to expanding alliances?
Facilitator Tips: To keep this light and moving, do a fast brainstorm here and list the responses on a board or flip chart.
Discussion Question 7
How have we perpetuated our own isolation?
Facilitator Tips: This is a self-critical exercise, so you may have to remind participants that this type of examination will make us stronger and more effective. It’s OK to challenge our sacred cows.
Facilitator Tips: The tone shifts here (as in, “That was the bad news, now this is the good news.”).
Discussion Question 8
How have we worked in the past to break down barriers in building new alliances and involving men and boys? What are some of our success stories?
Discussion Question 9
Which of our resources, approaches, or past successes open up possibilities for expanding alliances?
Discussion Question 10
In the past, have we capitalized on these resources and accomplishments as much as we could to expand alliances?
Step 5: Identify Potential Partners
Facilitator Tips: Now the fun begins. Reproduce the following chart over several sheets of flip-chart paper and use it to identify potential partners. Approach filling in the chart as a brainstorming exercise. Don’t get into a discussion of the pros and cons of the answers. Don’t evaluate. Don’t debate. Don’t censor. Let wild ideas emerge.
Benefits/reasons for working together
Barriers to working together
Resources and ideas to overcome barriers
How working with them fits (or doesn’t fit) with our priorities and strengths
Facilitator Tips: Brainstorm one column at a time. You can use the notes below to identify what fits into each column.
Potential partners can include a wide range of institutions and organizations. It might include existing men’s organizations and service clubs dominated by men; existing women’s organizations and service clubs dominated by women; faith-based institutions; community groups; corporations; trade unions and professional associations; schools; scouts, sports clubs, and other youth organizations; high-profile individuals; different levels of government; nongovernmental organizations; and so on.
Benefits/reasons for working together should identify reasons specific to that organization or group. The links may not be obvious. For example, you may wish to work with scouts but lack contacts. However, you may have contacts with churches or service clubs that sponsor scout troops. So the benefit of working with that church or club is to gain a connection with the scouts. In other cases, the reason to work with a certain organization might be its weight in the community: it’s the largest corporation in the area, the only university, and so on.
Barriers to working together should identify obstacles specific to that organization or group.
Resources and ideas to overcome barriers should identify practical resources and ideas. These might be a personal connection, the fact that your organizations share a building, or that executives in your organizations both sit on a certain committee or have kids at the same school. Or they could be related to knowledge you have about the potential partner—you know that community or organization has had a problem with violence against women. (See the In Our Own Words article, Agreeing to Disagree: Overcoming Barriers, [internal link, Resources, In Our Own Words, agreeing to disagree] for a story about getting past difference in personal beliefs.)
How working with them fits (or doesn’t fit) with our priorities and strengths. It might seem great to work with local elementary schools. But if your organization has no related expertise, contacts, or mandate, the schools might not be the best partner.
Step 6: Prioritizing
Facilitator Tips: The previous step was a brainstorming exercise. Now you need to determine what is possible. Review the chart. Assess your strengths. Use the following labels to group potential partner organizations.
The A List: A lot of potential. An organization or institution on this list is particularly important and there are tangible benefits to working together. The barriers seem surmountable, you have resources or ideas to overcome them, and a partnership would fit into your mandate and priorities.
The B List: An organization on this list has some potential, but it’s not solid in as many categories, or one category seems daunting.
The C List: There may be few benefits to working with these organizations, or perhaps there are far too many barriers and no resources to overcome them.
The A List is your logical starting place. The B List is worth further consideration. The C List is for the future—or perhaps never.
Step 7: An Action Plan
- Are there specific initiatives, a specific campaign, a specific issue in the community, or a specific event that we could approach this organization about?
- Do we want to start with one group, or do we want to approach several groups?
- If the latter, should we develop separate initiatives or should we try to bring a coalition together? (Keep in mind that your organization will need to meet separately with each group. You’ve been through a thinking process on this, but they may not have.)
- How can we involve some of our traditional allies and partners in this initiative, or what information do we need to share with them about what we’re doing?
- Who should work on this outreach?
- Who will take responsibility for drafting a proposal or making the first contact?
Facilitator Tips: I was facilitating a workshop for a group of teachers who were charged with coming up with plans to work in their schools to challenge sexism. I had asked them to be concrete and specific, but they were all over the map, from talking about how the curriculum could be revised to elaborate plans for conferences to an idea to change a school mascot.
All were good ideas, but I knew if they left that day with such grand plans, they’d probably achieve nothing. So I stopped them and redefined their task: “Come up with the one or two things you will achieve by the end of this term.” This helped them focus on realistic objectives that would pave the way for the larger and longer-term changes they envisioned. At the end of the exercise, I had them all write a letter to themselves reminding them of their commitment, which I promised to mail to them in a month.
The lesson: To make planning effective, be specific about timelines, personal commitments, and who will do what. And never end a planning meeting (especially one involving people from different organizations) without setting the time and place for the next one.
- Resource Type:
- Toolkit Sections:
- Build Partnerships
- Toolkit Sub-Sections:
- Build Partnerships - Organizational Alliances
Last modified 2004-09-04 06:40 PM