From The Executive Director’s Desk: Don’t do it alone: “Get your partner and …”

Last month, the NSF ATE-funded Centers Collaborative for Technical Assistance (CCTA) presented a webinar named “Developing Stakeholder Partnerships Internally and Externally for Successful Grants.” I participated with two other Center directors for both the webinar and a follow-up online question and answer session with participants who wanted to dig in deeper. Some important summary points surfaced as an end result of this Q&A experience:

(a) when starting to consider working together for common goals, it’s important to stop and consider why partnerships and collaboration are desirable, needed and important. Remember that good partnerships can grow into working collaborations; (b) when approaching new, potential partners you may want to develop a script AND possibly send a hand-addressed letter (not email).

In all situations, however, before engaging in any way, it’s critical to be fully prepared. Here are some “to do’s”: (1) have a clear and concise “ask” – (know what you want); (2) learn what you can about the potential partner especially where your missions overlap (the working space); (3) define concrete benefits for each; (4) be prepared with alternatives; and, (5) take the lead in all follow-up communications. In summary, when starting the conversation, remember that all good and strong partnerships have the following common characteristics.


Engage in candid communication Cultivate strong personal connections
Listen intently to each
 Value and acknowledge the relationship
Compromise for consensus Appreciate each other’s motivation & culture

Partnerships typically have specific goals, deliverables and, possibly, metrics. Good partnerships are strong and can deepen with time if they are successful in making progress towards or achieving the common goal. Partnerships goals can be extended and expanded with time often making it possible to achieve much more than any one partner might be able to accomplish alone. Ultimately, partnerships require “high-touch” relationships.  When they reach this level, partners that continue to have overlapping interests and goals, may become true collaborators. Collaborators work in and with each other although both parties may not benefit from an activity, but happens to have the expertise.


Mission alignment Common values
Like-minded goal Focus on outcomes
Benefit for every partner Capacity to deliver
Commitment Resource sharing

Although the CCCTA webinar and the follow up Q&A session was focused on developing partnerships in the context of existing or potential grants for educational institutions, the fundamental elements and characteristics of partnerships are universal are good practices – no matter what the context. Our partnerships are typically among Industry interest in hiring skilled technicians and include, but are not limited to the list below:

  • Trade Organizations
  • K-12 and University Educators
  • Other ATE or TAACCCT Projects
  • Scientific and Professional Organizations
  • Non-profits
  • Educational Organizations
  • Government Agencies
  • Certification Boards
  • Foundations

Last month’s webinar was the third in a four-part series about writing a successful grant proposal for NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. The other webinars have tips for adhering to the requirements of the program; defining measurable outcomes and strategies to be sure those outcomes are evaluated and measured. These are all important issues, but proposed work in this area cannot be done alone! The ATE program is grounded in partnerships to grow the 2-year advanced technology technician workforce in the United States. Qualified, talented advanced technicians that also meet employer’s needs is ATE’s high level goal.

The webinar’s recording offers many rich examples of various internal and external partnership situations and just how these work in the “real world”. It also explores just how to get partners to “commit” and what does commitment mean at that stage of a partnership. I recommend that anyone considering submitting a grant to NSF ATE in the fall 2017 review this webinar and the rest of the series early in your proposal preparation phase. The recordings and slide decks can be found on the 2017 recordings here:

Good luck in your exploration of partnerships! If you have any questions or ideas, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Here at FLATE, we are proud of our many partnerships and collaborations that exist in a tangled web of complex multilevel relationships as well as singularly focused 2-party, deliberate working partnerships for singular tasks.