Exploring strategic partnerships -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Exploring strategic partnerships

By Karan Kennedy and Anita Mellott

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9 (NLT)

The idea of partnerships is not new to Habitat for Humanity. For example, as early as 1993, Habitat began working in Egypt in partnership with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), a well-known NGO involved in community development. That early partnership later enabled HFH Egypt to register as a legal entity and establish similar partnerships with a variety of community-based organizations (CBOs) throughout Egypt. (For more information, see article, “A winning strategy born out of necessity: HFH Egypt’s CBO partnerships,” which appeared in The Forum, 13:1.)

Today, partnerships or alliances are vitally important to Habitat for Humanity and its ability to leverage resources. A wide variety of partnerships exist, and Habitat for Humanity has many different types. The most common and basic is the donor-client partnership, where corporations or celebrities tie their corporate brand to that of Habitat’s providing an avenue for social responsibility and good will. These alliances are important and can become increasingly complicated and strategic. An alliance becomes strategic when it serves the strategic plan and forwards the strategic goals of the organization. The more strategic the alliance is for both partners, the higher the value of the partnership.

This issue of “The Forum,” however, explores alliances that are tied specifically to program development. These strategic alliances are very appealing since they enable Habitat to do what it does best — housing — alongside partners who are experts in other aspects of community development. Habitat becomes a catalyst in holistic community development and an agent of community transformation.

This issue of “The Forum” draws on the experiences of various Habitat entities engaged in strategic partnerships worldwide. It highlights best practices and lessons learned. A common theme emerges: Alliances can add value and increase the scope and scale of housing interventions, but there are also huge risks if the partnership is not managed properly.

Good partnerships are challenging and take a special set of skills, which includes:
Clearly defining roles and responsibilities right from the beginning
Clearly articulating goals and outcomes
Mutual respect
Shared values
Good, intentional, continuous communication
A plan for conflict resolution
Consistent evaluation of the partnership.

We hope that this issue of “The Forum” will encourage, challenge and motivate us to continue steadfastly toward our goal of bringing simple, decent housing worldwide.

Karan Kennedy is director of International Support at Habitat for Humanity. She has 14 years of experience with HFH in various capacities, mainly in the Africa/Middle East department.

Anita Mellott serves as editor for International Field Operations. She has been with HFH for 10 years. She has a background in journalism and communications.

Both Karan and Anita may be contacted at TheForum@habitat.org.