Partnership development is a process that takes time, personal connection, trust, shared goals, and mutual benefit and should be considered relationship building. Internal partners are as essential to your STEM Center as external partners, though purposes may vary. Consider the value proposition for each partner, for example: financial support, intellectual capital, connections, etc.
Identify Skill Sets of Director or Executive Committee
As the person or persons primarily responsible for developing partnerships, it is critical to first understand the skills than an executive director or committee brings to the role and identify the networks and relationships to which they already have access. With that information in hand, the Center can identify where some guidance or additional support may be needed. For example, if the director has previously established internal partnerships (i.e. academic departments) but the Center's advisory board calls for more external partnerships (i.e. government agencies), identify the supports that will help the director cultivate those relationships. Perhaps one of the internal partners the director has worked with has more experience in this area and can provide some guidance.
Obtain Guidance and/or Mentorship
"Collaborating at the
Centers" Report »Some partners may provide guidance and/or mentorship to help negotiate complex environments for systems. Internal partners may serve as mentors to help understand the institutional environment while external partners may offer guidance in identifying essential synergies. In identifying these mentors look for people with skills and experience different from but complementary to the center staff, who can serve as an advocate for the center mission, and who may have useful connections outside of the centers sphere of influence.
Co-develop Value Proposition
Once partners are identified, begin the process of co-developing the value proposition of the relationship between the partner and the Center. This should engage both parties to simultaneously address needs of both the Center and the partner and identify the value added to each by the partnership. The details of this value proposition can evolve or be clarified as you work to maintain these partnerships, but it is important to begin the process of developing the partnership with mutually agreed-upon goals and benefits.
The Center for Research in SEAD Education at Virginia Tech has developed a relationship with the Provost's office and the Office for the Vice President of Research and Innovation (OVPRI) in order to align the mission of the Center with the mission of recently developed initiatives from both offices to better assess the university's impact on P-12 Education. This brings added value to all three units as they support the College Access Collaborative designed to enable more students from underserved schools to enroll and graduate from college.