What is a Partnership Community?

A partnership community is any group designed around the principles of partnership as described by Riane Eisler in her many books, essays, and speeches.

Some characteristics of a partnership community are:

  • The community is initiated by one or more individuals and develops organically, responding to the needs and the interests of the organizers.
  • The community is committed to partnership principles, hospitality and caring.
  • A flexible structure--that promotes creativity and offers a pleasant environment--is created to guide the work. This might include identifying a leader, co-leaders or facilitator. It also might include identifying individuals that assume important roles of providing meeting space or being liaisons with a sponsoring organization, in charge of logistics. Share the work and find a role for every person to play. This will assure a shared responsibility for accomplishing your goals.
  • Leaders empower people to actively and individually engage in partnership work
  • Participants are not held to standards of impossible perfectionism; in other words, there is a shared understanding that all of us have, to varying degrees, come out of domination cultures.
  • There are hierarchies as there must be to get things done, but they are what Eisler calls hierarchies of actualization rather than domination. In other words, there is strong, focused leadership and clear accountability. We know that behind the success of any initiative or project is a person that had a vision along with the time and skills to lead a group.
  • Engaged listening is built into every aspect of the community, to benefit and learn from all of the people who are onboard with the partnership efforts.
  • All voices are heard and recognized within the structure that supports moving the community forward. However, decisions do not have to be by consensus, as this sometimes makes it possible for the “holdout” to dominate a group. Some decisions are made by the majority, some are made by the individual or group responsible for a particular project or task.
  • Develop a way to deal with challenging issues that everyone agrees to. There will be disagreements!
  • Information flows up and down the community, with many points of contact so that community members know what is happening and what future plans are.
  • Everyone contributes to the knowledge about partnership and has the opportunity to participate in decision-making.
  • The unique talents of everyone are valued and utilized.
  • Teamwork is valued and expressed in every phase of the work
  • Volunteer contributions are honored and recognized.
  • Positive relationships are fostered within the community, as well as with funders, participants and the public.
  • Environmental stewardship is practiced, including green practices such as using dishes instead of throw aways, excessive use of paper copies is avoided, etc.

For a more in-depth description of partnership systems, please read:

The Partnership Organization: A Systems Approach, OD Practitioner 33.2 (2001).

In this article, Dr. Riane Eisler and Dr. Alfonso Montouri review their ideas of how a partnership organization functions using principles of diversity, gender balance, creativity and entrepreneurship, teamwork, "power with" instead of "power over," and a new role for the manager.

How can I start a partnership group?

Here are some simple ways to engage people, depending on your goals and objectives:

Tips for establishing clarity of purpose, identifying goals and objectives, and engaging in partnership activities.

Identify Goals and Objectives

When you share clarity of purpose in the broad sense, more specific goals and objectives will become easier to identify. Goals don’t have to be formal or even written, but it helps to be able to revisit the original goal of an effort, when in the midst of it. It also helps a group to recognize success when they see it.

If you have received funding for your work, it is critically important to begin with the goal in mind, to document the process and to gather data at the end of it to determine if the goals were met.

You will also want to develop a plan for documenting outcomes and evaluating results in relation to your original goals and objectives. This an important component of any project or initiative. It can help demonstrate that people’s time and energy has been well spent, or serve as a learning tool when the end result was not desirable.

Establish Clarity of Purpose

Think about successful projects that you've been part of. What was the reason for their success? Think about unsuccessful projects that you've been part of. What was the difference? One key to success begins with people being clear about why they have come together and what it is that they are interested in doing together--clarity of purpose.

Clarity of purpose is essential. Are you gathering to provide social connection, inspiration and support? To engage in activism? If so, what would that look like? The more clarity you begin with, the more smoothly the process will unfold. You will attract people with shared intentions to your project. There will always be some differing opinions and competing goals, but when you begin with clarity of purpose, the project will progress more smoothly.

Identify Goals and Objectives

Every community is in a different place regarding their openness to consider new cultural values. To gather a group of people with a shared clarity of purpose who are willing to take the next step, try:

  • Talking with people
  • Posting notices
  • Connecting with social networking websites that can link you up with others in your area that share your interest

Where Can I Build a Partnership Group?

Start where you are. Partnership begins with you, and you can bring partnership principles into any community that you belong to--from family to the workplace.

All successful initiatives begin in the heart and mind of one person or group committed to action. Since most people have a deep desire to be part of the solution to what ails our culture, there are roles that everyone can play--from an individual who writes opinion pieces and blogs to a nonprofit that wants to organize a campaign.

You can foster the development of partnership principles in any group that you're a member of. Here are just a few examples:

  • Community collaborative
  • City wide campaign
  • Church/synagogue/mosque interested in book study, discussion, social justice project
  • Voluntary associations affiliated with a cause: women’s groups; home schoolers, etc.
  • In-service education for educators or human service organizations
  • Peace initiative
  • Chamber of commerce task force
  • Leadership training program
  • College department of social work, leadership, family studies, education
  • Media group campaign
  • Professional associations, such as an education association
  • High schools (e.g., a partnership club)

Examples of partnership groups include:

  • A group of people that gather to promote some aspect of partnership
  • A partnership program convened under the auspices of an existing organization
  • A nonprofit organization organized specifically to address partnership issues
  • A community collaborative made up of multiple organizations to address an aspect of partnership