Business Innovation Facility conducted a series of events in collaboration with the Responsible Business Promotion in Bangladesh (RBPB) project of CARE Bangladesh. The series began with two separate workshops for the business and development sector partners identifying the challenges of working with the other. More details can be found in my blog titled Sustainability through Profitable Inclusive Business.
So, much more aware of the local realities – the International Business Leader’s Forum trainers began their workshop on the above topic – with 41 participants from both business and development sectors in the same room. The program was designed for 2 days (19th and 20th April, 2011) of rigorous understanding of cross sector partnerships.
So, on the opening day, the workshop began with a welcome speech by Nick Southern, Country Director, CARE Bangladesh. Then two consultants introduced themselves to the participants, Nazneen Huq from Bangladesh and Joanna Pyres from The Partnering Initiative, India – both IBLF Certified Trainers. The participants were asked to work in pairs to introduce themselves. Presentation began with sharing the idea of partnering in Bangladesh and all over the world. The basics needed for an effective partnership were stated by Nazneen as being EQUITY, TRANSPARENCY and MUTUAL BENEFITS.
This session helped participants to understand the true meaning of effective partnership and learnt the key elements of partnering. The purpose of this part of workshop was to enable the participants in visualizing the scopes and benefits of getting into a partnership that can accomplish common goal – more effectively.
The participants were asked to work in two distinct groups –NGOs and Business houses and have a discussion on three vital issues such as strengths as an individual sector (NGO or Business house), weakness as an individual sector and the potential benefits of getting into a partnership. It was an attempt to find the ways where they need support; either technical or cost sharing that can bring mutual benefits to both of the sectors.
Presentation continued with a discussion on trust building. Joanna mentioned that there are four essential elements of trust building: Reliability, Transparency, Consistency and Competency. A practical session was held which covered the issue of bad partnerships. A picture was shown and the participants were asked what went wrong. This task gave the participants an idea of what actually happens if there is a lack of coordination, lacking in chain of command or willingness to compromise which is a common practice in the aspect of partnerships.
The last part of the presentation included a slide showing the partnering cycle with four elements: Scoping and building, Managing and maintaining, Reviewing and revising, Sustaining outcomes. The day ended with a practical session where the NGOs and Business Houses were involved in a role play exercise where they first formed pairs consisting of a person from NGO and a person from any Business house. Then after trying to negotiate to go for a partnership they again changed their roles. Being interesting and at the same time a little bit difficult, this session brought an end to Day 1 leaving the participants with a thought of understanding the values of each sector and how difficult/easy it is to think while stepping in other person’s shoes.
Day 2 started with sharing the ideas of a Win-Win partnership. Nazneen mentioned the win-win situation provides direct commercial returns and direct development/social returns. She also pointed out different ways of negotiation. Then a practical session was held to make the participants acquainted with the most suitable way to negotiate considering mutual benefits. It was a case study on ‘Chop Down the Tree’ between two neighbors. The participants had their own perceptions which they shared and found the others had different opinions. It helped them to learn the essence of partnership - how well partners can negotiate effectively by listening to others’ problems and providing possible solutions rather than just thinking of own benefits.
Then again going back to the Partnership Cycle that was discussed on day 1, Joanna went through other elements of the cycle. While discussing the second element, they again made the participants work in groups for project planning and resource mapping. They were asked to plan for a conference and they had to make a list of the resources that each of them can contribute on behalf of their organizations. The purpose of the exercise was to make the participants think of wider resources each can bring to the partnership and how they can collaborate effectively in using their resources.
A brief session was given of different types of agreements that are used in partnerships. Then again the trainers went through slides that covered “Managing and Maintaining partnership”. After the lunch break, reviewing and revising partnerships and scaling up were discussed in detail. Then a practical session on exiting from a partnership was held. The participants were placed in different situations to visualize and understand the complexities that can take place while maintain a partnership and also finding the suitable ways to end them.
At the end of the 2 days workshop – the participants thanked the trainers for their sincere efforts. This training also got press coverage in the newspaper. At the end of the training, Nick, CD of CARE Bangladesh talked about their greater plans of effectively engaging with businesses for reducing poverty in Bangladesh and handed over the certificates to the participants. He also announced the grand finale of the series; the planned CEO’s Night and urged the participants to ask their top management to that event.
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