Partnership working: choreographing dance moves

Rahul Karavadra

As we move into the second year of our work at the Foundation for Education Development (FED) and following the launch of the FED National Education Consultation Report, we hosted a roundtable discussion focussed on ‘Partnership working: Art or science? How to develop and manage long term, effective partnerships for education’.

We asked Rahul Karavadra, Partnerships Consultant at Lyfta, to share his insights following his contribution to the roundtable discussion. Rahul suggests that five important steps be taken for partnership to be successful and that most importantly we are ‘building partnerships with people’.

Partnership working: choreographing dance moves

Having spent all of my professional career building partnerships with schools and Multi-Academy Trusts, I have come to the conclusion that partnership working is very much like a dance. When done well it looks effortless, but when stripped back it can be understood as a series of sequenced steps and movements that have been carefully put together to move you from A to B.

Just like choreographing dance moves, there are important steps that need to be taken for a partnership to be successful.

  1. Understanding the context – Getting to know the context of the school/MAT is very important as it allows you to get a better understanding of their priorities
  1. Goal setting – setting out the aims and vision of a partnership allows both sides to see what they are working towards. Goals can then be broken down into short, medium and long term, building on each other.
  1. Clear Communication – like all relationships communication is key. Schools are busy places, and things sometimes don’t move to the same rhythm, so it’s important to be in constant contact with clear actions and dates to make sure things don’t stagnate. Sometimes finding a champion within a school or MAT outside of your primary contact can really help keep things on track.
  1. Nurturing relationships – a relationship doesn’t end when they become a customer., it’s just starting. It’s important to continue checking in to make sure the aims and goals are still the right ones and on course. If not, building a plan to bring things back on track, but also think about ways to continue growing the relationship.
  1. Impact – We need to show that we are adding value to the relationship. By showing impact we show that the relationship between you and the school/ MAT is a positive one. Be it qualitative or quantitative, we have to demonstrate that our partnership is worthwhile.

We mustn’t forget that when building partnerships with organisations, be that schools or MATs, we are building partnerships with the people. It’s the humanistic element that makes partnership working more like a flamenco and less like the robot.


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