How collaborating with the private sector is a lot like dating.
“When is it your turn?” My aunt elbows me with a hopeful expression during another Say Yes To The Dress marathon.
“So are you dating?” All eyes turn to me over the Thanksgiving feast.
If you’re single like me, these encounters will sound all-too-familiar. The dating scene can lead to some fun family confrontations, but if you work in corporate partnerships like I do at PSI, it can also lead to some important lessons.
I build strong, mutually beneficial, and transparent corporate partnerships as an Associate Manager of Corporate Partnerships at PSI. Much like a relationship with a significant other, a strong corporate partnership requires commitment, hard work, and the genuine belief that you are better together than apart.
Now that I’m “engaged” with some of our corporate partners across nearly 30 countries, I have some insights to share:
Myth #1: Love at First Sight
Corporate partnerships are no Cinderella story, it’s more like “When Harry Met Sally.” You have to get to know an organization before you make a commitment, no matter how cute their profile picture.
Myth #2: Opposites Attract
In partnerships with corporations, we are not opposites but we’re also not the same. NGOs and private sector companies have more in common than you might think. We are mission driven and often want the same thing – to provide access to a product that will have a positive impact in someone’s life. With that shared end goal, our differences actually make us stronger since much of what we wish to achieve cannot be done alone.
Myth #3: Money Can’t Buy Love
Maybe it can’t buy love, but it can help sustain it. Let’s be honest, a partner who offers financial security is attractive. We are programmed to shy away from talking about having or needing money, but why? Money is undeniably a crucial component of any partnership providing an important mechanism to help create success. A market needs to be strengthened to provide access to PSI’s health services, and in turn that market will generate money. Ignoring the financial aspect of partnership will only create problems in the future.
Myth #4: One Person ‘Wears the Pants’
Sometimes it is just as important to follow as it is to lead. Letting someone else take the lead is an opportunity to get a different perspective. In true partnership, there simply cannot be one decision maker—otherwise it would not be a partnership, rather a consultancy. Time to take ‘em off!
Myth #5: There’s One Person for Everyone & Three Is A Crowd
Guiding principle: the more the merrier and don’t leave anyone out. Let’s get other people involved—government agencies, other sector actors and our partner NGOs. The more people we can include, the more resources we have to leverage, the more knowledge we have to gain and the more impact could be generated.
Myth #6: Love Is Enough
As proven time and time again, it is not. The mutual desire to partner matters, however, to become something great and lasting, it requires open and transparent communication, a shared vision or goal, spending time together, and respect for what each other brings to the partnership.
Myth #7: The More You Date, The Easier It Gets
Partnering, like dating, is always changing. You are not going to ”date” every partner the same way—some are needy, some like to play hard to get and there are always going to be shiny, younger, trendier ones. For partnerships to work, there are tools that make it easier, like the Shared Value Leadership Summit, which provides a platform to engage more openly with the growing network of partnership players.
And then there is Tinder.
So yes, Aunt Linda, I’m dating. My team and I are open to making a go of it with partners who want to make an impact.