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How many partnership practitioners does it take to change a lightbulb?

By Ros Tennyson, Director, Partnership Brokers Association

The clip art image of a light bulb is often used as metaphor to convey the idea innovation, insight and new thinking. We even talk about light bulb moments – conveying, perhaps, that sudden feeling of light (enlightenment?) in a dark world. And there are endless ‘serious jokes’ about how many people in different categories (lawyers / feminists / NGOs etc) it takes to change a light bulb. The implication being that groups are, each in their different ways, unproductive or time-wasting mechanisms for completing this kind of simple task.

For what it is worth, my current favourite is:

Question: How many Anthroposophists does it take to change a light bulb?

Answer: One to change the light bulb and ten to consult Rudolph Steiner’s indications on the esoteric significance of light bulbs (in the original German)

In the way one’s brain meanders in the early hours of a sleepless morning I applied the question to partnership practitioners. My experiences as one of the five founding partners of PEP provided the raw data for arriving at an answer.

I came to the following conclusion:  It takes precisely five partnership practitioners to change a light bulb.

The first to create the appropriate collaboration agreement that enshrines the different and complementary contributions of the different stakeholders involved, as well as a summary of the tasks and timelines involved and an allocation of the roles and responsibilities of each partner

The second to arrange the venue where the light bulb will be changed and the date and time when all those involved will be available to change it as well as any transport, visas (if necessary) and accommodation requirements.

The third to manage the project on time and on budget with a check list of key performance indicators, benchmarks for success and a fit for purpose monitoring / evaluation tool.

The fourth to broker a truly inclusive, open and ‘emergent’ process – helping partners to distinguish between which elements are ‘simple’, which ‘complicated’ and which ‘complex’ and holding the space to allow this facilitated conversation to happen when the time is right.

The fifth to negotiate with the entity that provided the funding for the purchase of the light bulb to be sure that they are fully satisfied that their money is being spent on the right model (in terms of its connectivity, brightness and longevity).

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