Have you ever looked at a list of long-term goals and thought, "My organization can never pull off this much development?" Do you worry you won't ever have the right expertise in your organization to be able to write, manage, and direct the grants you want to get?
If you've ever worried about these questions, have you considered partnering with a local nonprofit, university team, STEM business, or workforce development agency? There are a host of potential benefits, including improved systems capacity for change and quality relationships that can make for more sustainable programming in the future.
If you're going to start partnering with local organizations, here are some things to consider:
Get your institutions' goals out early.
Universities want to do research. Nonprofits want to fulfill their mission and remain solvent. Companies want to make money and develop a workforce. Have a meeting early where you all talk about what a partnership would mean and how you can agree on a common goal that fulfills everyone's needs.
Think strategically about capacity.
Play to each other’s strengths. If you need to apply for funding, choose partners who know the grant writing game. If you need to disseminate information, like through marketing or media channels, pick a partner who’s done it before. This also means knowing what you do well, which is probably high-quality youth development.
Be very clear about roles and responsibilities.
Nothing is more confusing or frustrating than when partners don’t know their responsibilities. Clarify these as soon as you can and revisit them regularly.
Want to learn more? I spent four years working with Bill Penuel and Dan Gallagher in a STEM partnership in Seattle, and now they have a book on partnerships! Check out the title Creating Research-Practice Partnerships in Education.