A Guide to Building International Tobacco Control Partnerships
If we were to ask each group that has signed up for the Global Partnerships
for Tobacco Control program what their idea of a "partnership"
is, we would probably get many different answers. Thats a good
thing, because the partnerships will and should evolve
in diverse ways. But it is important too that we all begin with some
common understandings and expectations.
Partnerships should be mutually supportive and beneficial relationships between
two groups working together on a common project. While regular communication
will play an important and valuable role, to succeed the partnerships will go
beyond the "pen pal" relationships. Successful partnerships will identify
common interests, devise and carry out a joint project, and ultimately achieve
It is crucial groups consciously work to insure that their relationships are
balanced. The partnership program is not an international mentoring program.
While one organization may have more experience in a certain tobacco control
area and should impart their knowledge as appropriate, to succeed the relationship
between organizations must be two-way. Each organization has a different set
of knowledge, experience, and skills, which may be particularly unique given
the specific geographical, economic, cultural, and political context in which
they work. We can learn a lot from each other.
It is important to emphasize that the partnerships should be rooted in a sense
of international solidarity, not charity which tends to lead to imbalanced relationships.
Groups should enter the partnerships to help each other, and to push forward
the common agenda of promoting tobacco control. Finally, the partnerships are
not intended to be a funding mechanism. Essential Action is not not a funding
agency and it is not our objective, nor in our capacity to fund individual groups
associated with the partnership program. Likewise, American and Canada groups
many of which themselves function on tight budgets are neither
expected or encouraged to directly fund their partner organizations.
Because each partnership will involve different sets of countries, issue areas, and project objectives, each will be unique and inevitably experience specific concerns that will have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. There are some general guidelines, however, that should be helpful. Since we know of no other program quite like this one, we assume that all participants have little, and probably no, prior experience with an international partnership of this nature.
Leadership. Partnerships between two organizations require at least
two people, one from each organization, who are willing to take on the responsibility
of making the partnership work. Part of the leaders challenge is to find
ways to involve other members in the organization in the partnership, so that
it is not simply a relationship between two people, but a relationship between
Vision. A positive vision of the future can be a powerful motivating
force. What do you dream of that drives you to work so hard on tobacco control,
day in and day out? A tobacco-free future for all children, in your home country
and abroad? A day when lung cancer cases in you and your partners hospitals
will be rare once again? A world where international trade organizations dont
treat tobacco just like any other commoditywhere peoples health
is put over the rights of corporations that market products that kill when used
as attended? Partner organizations might want to share their visions and then
come up with a common vision that defines their interest in working together.
Mutually agreed upon goals. While we have tried hard to match organizations
with common backgrounds and project interests, each organization will bring
to the partnership their own agenda and goals. This is to be expected. The challenge
will be to come up with goals and an agenda that benefit both organizations.
If each organization does not feel that it is getting something out of the partnership,
it will be harder to keep it going. Each group must have an invested interest
in seeing that the partnerships works.
Agenda setting and project planning. An agenda helps give focus and
direction to a partnership. What joint activities do you think would suit your
partnership? What specific tasks are involved and how will they be divvied up?
What is a reasonable timeline for getting them done? Sometimes when one organization
has a specific local need, they may take the lead on a project and offer their
partner a supporting role. Remember, when working on behalf of a partner, let
them set the agenda. Agendas evolve over time, and long-term agendas dont
have to be established right away. But it is important to have one!
Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you have it, youll spread
it to others in your and your partners organizations. People who are excited
about the partnerships are more likely to put energy and effort into them and
inspire others to do the same.
Humility and Balance. Be careful not to dominate your partnership, either
by monopolizing conversations or controlling the agenda. The ability to listen
is important. Given the different backgrounds partners come from, one shouldnt
automatically assume that what works well in one country will work well in another.
Be conscious of this when offering advice and acknowledge the limitations of
your expertise. Each partner should feel that they have something important
to contribute. American groups, in particular, should be aware of paternalism.
Reliability. Can you count on your partner to come through when you
need them to dash off a quick letter of support? Can they count on you to respond
to an urgent request for information? Responding promptly to requests and diligently
following through on agreed upon tasks are important to building trust between
partner organizations. A promise to do something without following up, on the
other hand, will lead to distrust and frustration. Ultimately, it is your actions,
not your words, that will prove your sincerity.
Regular contact. Staying in touch with each other on a regular basis
is crucial to building a strong partnership relationship. Regular contact represents
a commitment to the partnership. Groups should decide how often, at a minimum,
they should communicate and then make a point of doing so.
Pay attention to personal details. While the Partnership Program is
focused on strengthening international tobacco control, this does not mean that
the only topic of communications between partners must be tobacco! Taking the
time to pay attention to personal details is an important part of developing
strong interpersonal bonds. A note of congratulations on the birth of a child,
a thank you card for being especially helpful gathering data promptly, an email
inquiring whether recent severe weather has affected your partners community,
or a letter of goodwill on the occasion of an important national holiday are
some of the ways that partners can show that they care about each other. Notes
neednt be long. Its the thought that counts!
Flexibility and Patience. Partnerships will inevitably be faced with
certain challenges at some point or another. Perhaps it will be a language translation
problem. Or a technical difficulty with the phone or fax lines. Or a difference
of opinion on how to carry out a project. Maybe a project will take longer than
planned or youll have to put up with the slow pace of international mail,
but if you are able to take these difficulties in stride and make do with the
resources available, the partnership will go much more smoothly. Whether big
or small, most challenges are surmountable with a little flexibility and patience.
Part of being flexible is being receptive to new ideas and ways of doing things
that differ from your own. Its all in the attitude!
Cultural sensitivity. No existing culture is global. Take an effort
to learn more about the social, cultural, and economic contexts in which your
partner organization works. While it is impossible to understand where your
partner comes from without staying an extended length of time in their country
and community and learning to speak in their native language, it is helpful
to be consciously aware that their way of doing things may be different than
yours. For example, is it important to be on time? Do people prefer friendly
or formal communication with someone they have just met? How important is space
and privacy? When working cross-culturally, it is easy to misinterpret behaviors.
Be conscious of your reactions to issues that come up, as well as how your partner
might perceive your own behavior and ideas. Respect your partner and their ideas,
and try to avoid imposing your own ideas on them. Related to cultural sensitivity
is an appreciation that your partner may operate under very different economic
situations. In some developing countries, the cost of sending a letter to the
US may equal an entire days wages. Try not to be too quick to assume anything!
Fun! Its much more enjoyable to work on a project if there is some element of fun in it. So be creative and think of ways to make your activities fun for those involved. Reward yourself with a small party upon achievements, whether large or small.
EXPECTATIONS OF GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP PARTICIPANTS
Our expectations are rather simple, but they require a certain degree of commitment.
If you feel that, for whatever reason, you are unable to meet this level of
commitment at this moment please let us know. It would be disservice to your
partner to begin a partnership and then drop out after a few months. In addition
to the guidelines outlined above that we hope you will try to follow, we expect
all partners to: