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Developing and Sustaining Meaningful Partnerships

By Fatima Jayoma

Welcome to the Rural Realities Blog! This blog is about meaningful collaboration with community partners. Sexual assault response teams (SARTs) build relationships with different community partners within their local community. As they broaden their team’s scope to better support victims/survivors with diverse lived experiences, they often need to build new community partnerships. When teams identify community partners, they often ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Where are victims/survivors seeking support?
  2. Who is already engaged in this work, but not part of the team?
  3. Who is addressing sexual violence in other fields or spaces within the local community?
  4. Do they share similar values with the team? What are their values?
  5. How can they support the team’s mission and vision?

However, there are two other questions that teams can ask during this process.

  1. How can the team reciprocally support this new community partner?
  2. How can the team sustain the new partnership?

After identifying the new community partner, the next step is to initiate the relationship-building process. This typically involves having informal or formal meetings, extending invitations to community events, and actively participating in and promoting their events. It is important to note that extending invitations or attending their community events should not be a one-time occurrence.

During a formal meeting with a new community partner, it is helpful to ask about their work and the scope of their activities. This provides an opportunity to identify areas where the team and the new community partner intersect. Check our resource on Community Resource Mapping for a list of questions to ask. In addition to learning about their work, it can be helpful to engage in conversations about what collaboration means to them. Conflict can emerge when individuals and disciplines have differing definitions and perspectives. While it is okay to have differences, it is important to be aware of what those differences are. Ideally, through these conversations, a shared definition or understanding can be found. Before engaging in conversations with a new community partner, it can be helpful to take some time to reflect, both individually and as a team, on the following questions:

  • What does collaboration mean to you?
  • What does collaboration look like for a team?
  • How do we define collaboration?
  • How do we measure success?

While this blog has focused on new partnerships and how to develop them, you can apply the strategies shared to sustain your existing partnerships. It is not too late to engage in a conversation with the team about what collaboration means to them. Additionally, this can provide an opportunity to clarify roles and expectations.

Collaborating meaningfully with existing and new community partners enhances the overall effectiveness of the SART. At the core of a SART’s efforts are the victims/survivors. Meaningful collaboration can ensure that service providers and systems partners can effectively connect victims/survivors to the resources they need. To strengthen collaborative efforts, a team can:

  • Encourage new community partners to join a team meeting with no obligation to become members.
  • Invest time in relationship building. In addition to inviting community partners to events and taking part in their events, create opportunities for team members and community partners to get to know each other.
  • Promote the events of community partners.
  • Engage in collaborative efforts with community partners, such as organizing inter-agency training and delivering joint presentations.
  • Celebrate the successes of new and existing community partners.
  • Share resources, such as expertise, networks and contacts, financial resources, technology, and more.
  • Formalize the partnership and invite new community partners to join the team. Additionally, assist them in obtaining leadership buy-in at their respective organizations.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this topic further, please email us at svji@mncasa.org.

This project was supported by Grant No. 15JOVW-22-GK-04024-RURA awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.