Four Ways To Use Our New Cross-Sector Partnership Assessment as a Tool to Strengthen Your Work


This blog was originally posted to Living Cities’ blog on 11/11/15.

Today, we are excited to release our Cross-sector Partnership Assessment. In our work supporting over 70 collective impact initiatives in cities around the country, we’ve found that initiatives often struggle to build and maintain their cross-sector partnerships. So, Living Cities developed the Assessment to help cross-sector partnerships, particularly collective impact partnerships, understand how to best work with stakeholders to achieve dramatically better results for low-income people in cities.

The Assessment is an online survey that asks a series of questions about the structure, focus and maturity of your cross-sector partnership. After completing the survey, you receive an email in less than 10 minutes with customized feedback offering suggestions, resources and tools for moving the work of your cross-sector partnership forward.

While the Assessment can support any type of cross-sector partnership, the feedback and resources provided through this tool were developed with the principles of collective impact in mind. Living Cities believes that collective impact presents one of the most promising models for achieving dramatically better results, faster. The feedback is intended to help you move your partnership to working towards a shared result, being more data driven, and operate as a high-performing team. We believe that by embodying these principles, your partnership will be better positioned to achieve its intended outcomes faster.

Here are some specific ways this tool can help you and your partnership do just that:

# 1. Understand Where You Are

By assessing where you are now, you can decide where you need to go. Developing self-awareness is a common part of the growth and improvement process for individuals, teams and organizations. That’s why there are entire bodies of work around professional and team development that focus entirely on assessing where people and teams currently stand in order to know how to help them grow. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to do this when you are attempting to assess a group of partners from multiple organizations, especially because it is difficult to know what you should be looking for when you are just getting started. At Living Cities, we have benefitted from the hard work and learning of over 70 collective impact initiatives and have identified a set of elements that are necessary for cross-sector partnerships to be successful. The Cross-Sector Partnership Assessment shares that learning in a way that meets you and your partnership where you are, and helps you think through where you might need to go next.

# 2. Start a Dialogue to Build Shared understanding

The true power of this tool lies in how you and your partners use the feedback. One way to maximize the transformative potential of the Assessment is to have all of your partners complete the survey questions, then come together to compare your responses. Inevitably this will highlight differences in perception about the structure, roles and priorities of the partnership, and will create an opportunity for dialogue. We developed a group discussion guide that includes a sample meeting agenda to help you use the Assessment collaboratively.

# 3. Develop a Shared Agenda for the Work to be Done

Surfacing the tension and alignment in your existing work is a key step toward building a common agenda and aligning behind a shared result you aim to achieve. The feedback email that you and your partners receive upon completing the Assessment contains links to resources, including tools and exercises that can help you capture action commitments and chart your path forward. Anyone can articulate a goal and make a plan to accomplish it. What makes collective impact powerful and unique is when cross-sector partners articulate a shared goal *together* and developing outcomes that help everyone evaluate what is working, what isn’t, and why. The collaborative process allows individuals and organizations to work on different strategies while understanding how that work fits into a broader effort to change systems and achieve enduring change.

# 4. Continuously Reflect and Improve

Truly applying the principles of collective impact means continuously reflecting on progress. The Assessment can be taken as many times as you like, but is designed to be most effective when taken once or twice a year as a tool to reflect on how your partnership has evolved and how you can continue to grow and sustain your work. Individuals and partners can compare their past responses with current responses to create a dialogue about progress, or lack thereof. Even when the new feedback doesn’t result in any new information, the process of having formal opportunities for structured reflection is the kind of essential care and feeding required to maintain momentum behind the work and keep partners at the table.

We know that the systemic problems we are trying to tackle nationally cannot be solved by any one organization or sector. Likewise, cross-sector partnerships in places are essential to achieving dramatically better results for low-income people and building a new urban practice. This Cross-Sector Partnership Assessment is one tool that partnerships can use to support their ongoing work. We hope it is helpful and would love to hear from you about how we can improve it. You can share your thoughts about the Assessment in our user survey or join the conversation on the Collective Impact Forum. However you engage, the bottom line is that you are not alone in this work. We are all learning together.

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