The first and, I believe, most important part of an Erasmus+ project - of any project really - is a very well built partnership. Think about it...partners are those who, together with you, are going to contribute to shape those activities that you are planning, which then help you reach those specific objectives that explain why you are applying for that funding. So, basically everything comes from there.
You know what is one of the major mistakes of a losing project? Well...poor partnership making or management. What does it mean really? First of all, the partners you choose need to be functional to reaching your objectives, so make sure you select partners who have a lot to do with the kind of activities you need to bring forth. Second, make sure your partners are involved before, during and after the project. How? Follow me. In this article, I am going to reveal the 7 utmost things you need to take into account when it comes to managing partnerships!
SIGN AN AGREEMENT:
If you are looking for a collaboration, first of all, as I already said make sure you find the right partner that best suits the needs of your project, based on what the project it's actually about. Which tools can you use to find the right parter? Well...there are several! You can go on UP2Europe, EU Partners Search, Finding Partner Database, the different Erasmus+ platforms, or you can use several groups on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks. I have written several articles with all the links to the most influential social groups on social media related to partnership finding, so please check Erasmusnet BLOG page to read them all!
Secondly, it is very important that you understand the size of the partners that you are looking for. If - in your project - you are able to bring together organizations with different backgrounds and sizes, this will allow for a greater mix and match of experiences, but it also requires quite an experience from your side to make sure that you can deal with the drawbacks that can occur in such cases. So, be careful!
Whenever you are looking for a partner, make sure you remember that the project idea maybe clear in your head, but not necessarily in that of the people you speak to. So, make sure you elaborate an initial info-pack which resumes the most important elements of your project idea, so the partner can decide if it wants or it's capable to take part or not. This briefing paper should set clear timelines and deadlines, which will help your partner be well informed and updated;
Be careful of partnership hierarchy. Not in every country partnership making works the same! There are certain countries in which you firstly speak with an operative person and then you go up the ladder until you speak with the person that will sign your mandate. In other cases, you speak with the head at first and then with the operative person with whom you will be practically building the partnership;
The partners should sign a partnership agreement to agree on the roles of each member.
Before your project starts, you will be already very...very busy with managing your partners. Obviously, this is if you are a good project writer and manager! How can you manage partnerships? Well, as I told you yesterday...you can use several tools and ASANA is one of them. Actually, I believe it's one of the most complete ones for what concerns project managing and roles division.
Some say that...writing a project is very complex...so it is just better to make sure that partners just sign under whatever the coordinating organization decides. Well...WRONG! It is important to remember that all partners should have a say on at least the major points of the project. Making sure that a certain consensus is reached, which demands a moment of discussion and confrontation, is essential also to give to all stakeholders a say and a chance of real contribution in the proposal, without mentioning how much the proposal itself can be enriched by the mixing experiences;
This stage also gives you a very important chance to test the partner. If the partner is not showing up to meetings or it's acting rude or it's showing off other nasty behavior, will help you understand and evaluate whether to keep that partner or to let it go.
Make sure you speak to the partners clearly from the start to avoid any misunderstand during the most delicate phases of your project.
SETTING LEADERSHIP, ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
It is important to understand if you, a colleague in your organization or any individual involved in the partnership can have the role of leader. The leader should be someone who has more experience than the others in the kind of project you are applying for or on the kind of partnership that you are building;
It is also important that you divide up the different activities in WPs or Work Packages, which should be evenly distributed among the different stakeholders that are taking part to the partnership. The WPs division allows everyone to feel responsible...somehow leaders...of that specific activity and of its good outcome.
Working with people from different time zones is very difficult. However, technology really helps! I love working with GOOGLE DOCS or GOOGLE SHEETS and all the other Google instruments! They give me and my partners the possibility of working on the same document also at the same time, but anyhow making changes in a way that each one can see the changes made by the others and eventually comment on the document content;
Skype it's also a very great tool that allows me to share my screen and show presentations or the PDF form that I'm completing;
It's a good practice to plan, from the start, all the different Skype call, Hangouts call or other meetings you will have with your partners and what will be the core objective of each meeting...this will give a structure to your communication!
In order to assure a regular contact on basic daily things, I suggest you to create a WhatsApp group for instant communications;
Emails are, for me, a mid way through WhatsApp and the Skype calls :)
Planning carefully means a little bit of everything that I have just written from point 1 to point 6 included. Planning means that everyone has a good knowledge of the starting point as well as where the whole group of partners is going towards. Timelines should be respected, but, if for some reason it's impossible to follow the schedule, it is important that you go back to your original plan...CHANGE IT...and inform your partners on your new schedule!
I'M NOT FINISHED YET! I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING IMPORTANT...
---> LOOK, even after you have planned everything carefully...things will happen. So, the most important tip of all, TIP #8 or extra TIP, is...
BE READY TO STAY FLEXIBLE! <---
"Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is a progress, working together is success" - H. Ford
If your are writing a project for the mobility of students or staff, don't forget that Erasmusnet can help you with the management of your mobility programme in 7 locations across Europe!
If you need suggestions or just want to plan your mobility with us contact our reference person PAOLA PANFILI at firstname.lastname@example.org and, if you like, book a Skype call!
Hugs and best luck on your project from the Erasmusnet team!