Category Archives: Blog

The Benefits of being a Partnership Broker, with Executive Director Debbie Clark

To solve complex societal issues, more organizations are turning to collaboration, especially cross-sector partnerships. While receiving input from many different sectors is valuable, it can be difficult to adjudicate every opinion and personality that enters the partnership. The worst case scenario is making the effort to bring these voices together, but results falling short of expectations.

Because effective partnerships are both highly regarded and difficult to manage, the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations along with JS Daw & Associates and the International Partnership Brokers Association are hosting Partnership Brokers Training – a 4-day course that will teach you the knowledge and skills required for maintaining successful partnerships.

To understand the benefit of Partnership Brokers Training, ECVO spoke to Debbie Clark, executive director of Edmonton Community Adult Learning Association (ECALA), who took part in the course in October 2015. ECALA helps individuals access non-credit educational opportunities throughout the city and provides programs and services as well as grants and funding.

ECVO:  As an Executive Director, how do you use partnerships and collaboration in your workplace?

Debbie Clark: As a granting counsel, we work with many different agencies in the city and we see our role as building partnerships and strengthening the sector. We also deliver the best programs we can for our learners. This training is appropriate because it allows us to be in a partnership broker role, which is different from what I’ve done in the past. It’s looking at partnerships in a different way.

ECVO: How have partnerships changed throughout your time in the nonprofit industry?

Clark: The whole concept of partnership and collaboration has evolved and changed. The concept of being a partnership broker allows us now to take a hard stance when you need to move a partnership forward. This course really affirmed some emerging theory that has come out worldwide. The opportunity to experience this in Edmonton is invaluable.

ECVO: What was your experience taking Partnership Brokers Training?

Clark: It was a very full week! There were lots of different activities going on and there was something there for every style of learner. You meet people and make lots of connections you can use later in your work. There were people representing all different sectors.

Some of the information was affirming to what I was currently doing and some of it blew what I thought I knew out of the water.

Definitely a training that ranks high with me compared to some of the courses in my MBA research.

ECVO: What was your largest takeaway from the training?

Clark: The ability to work through so many case studies that were very realistic to our world here in Edmonton as nonprofits. The way they delivered the program, I’m often reflecting and encouraging conversation around the issues we run into here based on what I learned at training. The room was very rich in experience and knowledge, even from participants. I often reflect on those case studies and what I learned from training.

ECVO: Who do you recommend enroll in Partnership Brokers Training?

Clark: If you’re on the fence, or if you’re already partnering, you will still learn so much about how to broker partnerships in this program. The work will pile up, but it is well worth the time to be able to take this program and I can’t wait to take the second phase and get accredited. This is new and emerging theory and we are very fortunate to have this is Edmonton. This a great chance for anyone wanting to build more partnerships, getting into it for the first time, get promoted within an organization or build professional development. You can also use the training for your own personal development goals as an individual and a leader.


Principles, Not Playbooks Drive Partnerships

By Jocelyne Daw 

Multi-stakeholder partnerships are more and more seen as a key way to tackle the complicated and complex challenges we face as a society. I am a great champion of the power of partnership and believe that they can really make a significant difference. However, too many collaborations jump head first into the partnership without considering the complicated mechanics of ‘how’ to successfully partner.

The most effective partnerships are co-created and co-managed. They are fit for purpose solutions to a pressing issue in a specific context with a particular group of people and organizations – with all their respective capacities and imperfections.

While this co-creation approach is foundational, every partnership and context is different. What works in one circumstance will not necessarily work in another. The fact remains that there is no playbook or instructional guide that can ensure partnership success.

So what can you do to help give your partnerships the best chances at success? I believe that the following five ‘principles’ are the key to successful partner relationships. Principles can ensure that the challenges we face in partnerships are addressed through agreed upon values and core beliefs.

If partners live by core principles and use them as touchstones to guide and drive their partnership work, the chances of success are strong. So what are the five core principles of partnership?

Principles must address the underlying challenges of partnership and deliver positive outcomes. The Partnership Brokers Association through the direct experience of trainers and trainees, have identified five common challenges in the partnering experience. In turn, five principles have been identified as antidotes, critical ways to address these challenges and ensure outcomes that give partnerships the best chance of success.


These five principles are applicable to all partnerships. When partners commit to and hold each other accountable for these principles there is a strong chance that their partnership efforts will be rewarded with unexpected and imaginative responses and ideally, some truly breakthrough results.

A successful partnership requires highly skilled individuals that have the tools and skills to facilitate cross-sectorial collaborations.  If you’d like to strengthen your skills, register now for Partnership Brokers Training. This four-day course will provide you with the insights and tools you need to deliver positive partnering results. BONUS – the Canada-Alberta Job Grant can help cover the cost!  Contact Gemma Dunn to find out more. 



Five Reasons to Sign Up for Partnership Brokers Training this Fall

By Jocelyne Daw

If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together” –African Proverb 


It can be said that partnering creates a whole that is significantly greater than the sum of the individual parts, and in the process builds greater value than any one partner could achieve on their own. But what does it take to make a partnership successful? What makes some partnership successful and others not? And why is partnership broker training critical to the success of any partnership?

So what does it take?

Building partnerships is all about people. Successful partnerships are based on mutual respect and trust, open and honest communications, and require attentiveness, listening, and intuition. Partners must nurture their relationships and understand and support their partner’s needs and challenges equally as their own. But most people don’t have the training and knowledge to enable partnership success.

What could partnership training do for you and your organization?

1. It will provide “training and resources” for those engaged in the critical partnering process
Effective collaboration is not just a principle but also a process; success requires a skill and knowledge in terms of partnering processes. The Partnership Brokers course will help build insight and expertise in managing the partnering process from the earliest ‘scoping’ stage to the final ‘moving on’ phase, including the delivery of measurable benefits to all parties.

2. It will give you the ability to ask right questions
Is partnering the right approach? Is the timing right?Upon deciding to undertake a new partnership, intuition and foresight are required to discern when the circumstances and context are right—and to say no when they are not! Partnering is about allocating individual talent in order to maximize collective potential. In the early stages of Apple, Steve jobs handled marketing while his partner, Steve Wozniak, dealt with the technical processes, showing how, when facilitated correctly, partnerships bring out the best qualities in each of its members.

3. It will introduce you to boundary spanning skills
Leaders committed to partnership must have the ability to boundary span, to challenge assumptions and mindsets and to be open to new ways of conducting business. After all, building partnerships is not business as usual; it demands leaders who are willing to move outside their own comfort zone for the benefit of a bigger purpose. This challenge placed upon leaders to move towards a genuinely more collaborative model is a BIG one, and especially important within the Partnership Brokers curriculum.

4. It will embolden you with the courage to learn and the ability to be reflective
True partnerships are made up of creative risk takers. The course encourages participants to be reflective and embrace vulnerability at all costs. At their core, partnerships are relationships, and relationships are dynamic and ever changing by virtue of their deeply human makeup. Therefore, authentic and vulnerable partners have the greatest chance at becoming powerhouse partnerships (thank you Brené Brown!).

5. It will help you build a local and global network of fellow partnership brokers
This is far more than a training course, it is a vehicle for building a local and global community of practitioners that are already playing a significant part in improving and scaling multi-stakeholder partnerships and non-traditional collaboration worldwide. It will provide links to regional/national networks of partnership brokers and gives access to further resources and professional development.

Now for the logistics:

The Partnership Broker Training course is offered by the Partnership Brokers Association in collaboration with JS Daw & Associates. It is being held this October 3 – 6, 2017 in Edmonton.

The Partnership Brokers Association is at the forefront of developing the profession of partnership brokering by setting standards, building capacity and promoting professionalism for those operating in this role.

The heart of the Association’s work is the foundation course – a 4-day intensive face-to-face training designed to: deepen understanding of the changing nature of the partnership brokering role during a typical partnering cycle; share tools, tips and techniques for effective brokering and build key partnership brokering skills.


What you need to know about working in the nonprofit sector

In some ways, working in the nonprofit is similar to working for a typical business: they maintain similar departments like administration, human resources and management and employees are expected to have the same skill sets as they would working for-profit. The major difference of course, is the bottom line. A nonprofit’s goal is to further their mission while a typical business aims to make a profit.

If you’re thinking about dipping your toes in the nonprofit sector, here are a few things you should know before you apply.

  1. Increased job satisfaction: Those who choose to work in the nonprofit sector are typically passionate about helping others and bettering their community. If you’re hired at an organization that’s mission you are genuinely interested in, you’ll experience immense job satisfaction when you see your hard work come to fruition. For instance, if you’ve had a hand in creating an initiative to decrease homelessness in your city, you’ll be gratified to see those numbers reduce.
  2. Your skills are transferable: Before you dismiss a nonprofit position because you don’t have experience in the sector, understand that past work or university experience is valuable to the sector. While it is useful to be knowledgeable of the sector and acquire special skills such as fundraising, capacity-building and grant-writing, nonprofit organizations operate similar to businesses and therefore, need individuals with similar skills. Do you have experience in a management or leadership role? Apply to be a volunteer manager. Are you an English or Communication major interested in working for a nonprofit? Organizations need people like you to further their message and reach their target audience.
  3. Relationships are vital: This is standard in any organization, but in the nonprofit sector, relationships are crucial to move your organization’s mission forward. Nonprofits cannot operate sufficiently if they are sequestered into their own bubble. Prepare to become familiar with those working towards similar goals, meet workers in your field you can bounce ideas off of and maintain relationships through networking events. It makes all the difference when you need help spreading your message!
  4. Be wary of burnout: Because nonprofit employees are so passionate about the cause they are working for, they often don’t know when to slow down. Employees can only work at full capacity if they’re well rested and anxiety-free. Take your vacation days, don’t come in when you’re unwell and ensure you can manage your workload.
  5. You won’t get rich: Unfortunately, this is the bad news. Nonprofits work with minimal budgets and you won’t be striking gold when working for an organization where profit isn’t the end-all-be-all. And, many nonprofits are funded by external sources (different levels of government, larger organizations, etc.) and this funding can fluctuate. Nonprofits are not averse to job and financial insecurity

Why nonprofit workers are susceptible to burnout

For those who attended our Annual General Meeting on May 10, you will recall the lessons Beth Kanter taught us on how to remain calm and collected while working at a nonprofit organization. The nonprofit expert and co-author of The Healthy Happy Nonprofit, discussed how to prevent burnout and maintain optimal job performance.

So, why are those working in the nonprofit industry susceptible to burnout? Kanter says “sacrificing one’s health in service of a cause is a common narrative in the nonprofit sector.” People who work in the nonprofit sector are (most likely) not in it for the money. They are passion-fueled individuals who believe in the cause they are working for. Kanter says this can be a double-edged sword as nonprofit workers can be “so driven, they don’t stop to refuel or smell the proverbial roses or even notice they are experiencing symptoms of burnout.” Those working in the nonprofit sector view self-care as an indulgence when really, it is a necessity.

If you’re a nonprofit worker who hasn’t given self-care a second thought, it’s time you start. When is the last time you took a vacation or a personal day? If you can’t remember, you should assess yourself for common symptoms of burnout:

In the Healthy Happy Nonprofit Kanter outlines common symptoms of burnout in nonprofit workers:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness
  • Increased illness
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Isolation
  • Pessimism
  • Feelings of apathy/hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of productivity or poor performance

If this sounds like you, don’t panic. It happens more often than we think. A number of factors cause burnout; some can be personal while others are directly related to working in the nonprofit industry. For instance, the “Nonprofit Starvation Cycle” which Kanter explains is a consequence of inadequate infrastructure that leave nonprofits barely functioning as organizations. “The vicious cycle begins with funders’ unrealistic expectations about how much money running a nonprofit takes and results in nonprofits misrepresenting their costs while skimping on vital systems.” And for many nonprofits, that puts personal health and wellness low on the priority list. Then, there is “Funder-Driven Stress” which is a lack of foundation funding for nonprofit talent infrastructure. If a nonprofit’s foundation is weak, it makes it difficult to provide support and meet the needs of the communities that organization serves.  Other causes of burnout in the nonprofit sector include: lack of leadership development, overwork, overuse of technology and information overload.

Understanding that nonprofit workers are susceptible to burnout and stress is important when evaluating your own personal wellness. If you, or your organization as a whole, operates as a never-ending machine, it’s time to take a moment and reflect on your health, because in reality, if you are healthier as an organization and an individual you will be happier and more productive in the workplace.


Boost your nonprofit’s digital presence

“Networked Nonprofits don’t work harder or longer than other organizations, they work differently. They engage in conversations with people beyond their walls — lots of conversations — to build relationships that spread their work through the network.” – Beth Kanter 

On Thursday, May 11, Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations had the pleasure of hosting internationally renowned nonprofit expert, Beth Kanter for the Networked Nonprofit workshop. The goal is to be a networked nonprofit – but what does this really mean and how can organizations get there?

In short, Kanter says a networked nonprofit is:

  • Simple, agile and transparent
  • Engaging with organizations to reach outcomes
  • Leveraging their personal networks in service of mission
  • Using social media and online collaboration tools to make the world a better place

Most of us would like to think we are masters of social media, but haphazardly pushing out content you find compelling isn’t enough. To be a true networked nonprofit, your organization must have a digital strategy: one that is intentional, targeted and meaningful.  If your organization is jumping on the digital train, here are some tips that will help you define your strategy and set goals.

  1. Define your audience

If you have a well-developed following, now is the time to deep dive into some analytics.  It may sound intimidating, but understanding where your audience’s interests lay doesn’t have to be difficult. Twitter and Facebook have analytics built into their platform, so you can check out who is clicking what and when. From there, you can determine who your audience is and produce content that is both relevant and interesting to them, which will in turn, boost your engagement!

And, if you’re just beginning to gain followers, determine how you will attract the followers you want. For instance, if you’d like to attract volunteers to your organization, showcase volunteer experiences. Try posting stories and personal stories to intrigue those who may be interested.

  1. Define Measurable Objectives

Again, aimless tweeting isn’t effective. Ensure your tweets are purposeful and are bringing you closer to reaching a measurable goal. Perhaps you’d like to gain more followers, reach a target audience, or get more people to visit your website, whatever the goal is, write it down and track your progress.

  1. Use Social Optimization

Social media is interactive, a give and take platform. During your morning scroll, take the time to answer comments or questions directed at your organization, like or comment posts that your tagged in and take part in conversation that is relevant to your nonprofit.

While social media can boost your nonprofit’s presence in the digital community, it is not the end all be all. Traditional communication and meeting stakeholders and community members face-to-face still holds merit now, but in conjunction with a strong digital presence you will be well on your way to becoming a networked nonprofit.

If you’d like more information on how to become a networked nonprofit, check out Beth’s Blog – a handy resource for nonprofit organizations.


An Interview: Why Partnership Brokering Matters

Guest post by: Jocelyn Daw

With Partnership Brokers Training Course right around the corner, who better to advocate for it than past participants. So JS Daw & Associates took a (virtual) trip across the pond and interviewed two graduates of the Partnership Brokers Training Course who are presently working in London, UK. Scroll down to see their interviews and find out what makes the Partnership Brokers Training Course so unique.

Introducing Marieke Hounjet, Head of Development and Partnerships at Start Network, London, UK.

Marieke-Hounjet-150x150JSD: Can you briefly explain your role at your organization?

MH: My role is Head of Development and Partnerships at Start Network, a global consortium of 19 leading international humanitarian NGOs based in London, UK. This collaboration started in 2010 and since then the organisations have piloted and designed programmes to strengthen the humanitarian NGO sector. One of the flagship programmes is the Start Fund, a fund managed by NGOs for NGOs to provide rapid funding for humanitarian crises that lack (rapid) funding.

JSD: How has the partnership brokers training transformed your role at your organization of the way you approach your work?

MH: After the course I literally had a list of 30 follow up actions for myself, all things I learned or discussed with others and thought ‘that might help me at work’. Furthermore, it connected me with people in completely different sectors but who have very similar roles and challenges, and that network is extremely valuable.

JSD: What is one lesson you learned from taking the course that has stuck with you throughout your career?

MH: There is no such thing as ‘difficult partners’; people that I may perceive as ‘difficult’ have a valid point of view and may end up playing an important role for clarifying and shaping a better partnership. Another important personal mantra I adopted from the course is that partners need to have the answers and brokers the questions. If a broker provides all the answers then the partners do not own the partnership and dis-engage over time. Oh, and lastly compromise is not a success in a partnership, it’s in fact, lose-lose for all parties.

Introducing Ian Lobo, Global Lead, Cross Sector Partnerships at Accenture Development Partnerships, London, UK.

JSDPBA Blog 331c1af: What motivated you to take the Partnership Brokers Training Course?

IL: The opportunity to learn from the significant experience of the world leading experts who have pioneered the profession of partnerships. Moving beyond the rhetoric of ‘partnerships’ as a buzz word and deeper into understanding the mindset, approaches, roles and skills of an effective partnership broker.

JSD: How has the partnership brokers training transformed your role at your organization or the way you approach your work?

IL: As a result of a successful L1 course, where I had the opportunity to learn the basics as well as network and share ideas with other like-minded individuals across a variety of NGO, government and private sector organisations, PBA and I organized and ran an additional customised training session for our global ADP teams in London and Washington, DC.

Through participating in the course, we have been able to take a fresh approach to brokering to fully understand the complexities of partnering. These new skills and processes also enabled us to tap more effectively into our creativity and empathy to fully understand the barriers that were constraining progress on a number of partnerships that we have been supporting with clients around the world.

JSD: What is one lesson you learned from taking the course that has stuck with you throughout your career?

IL: Empathy is a strength that is often overlooked in a world of technical experts.

Learn more about our upcoming Partnership Brokering Course.


Please get a licence, City of Edmonton tells nonprofits

Most nonprofits are unaware that City of Edmonton Bylaw 13138, as amended on February 1, 2016, requires any organization providing goods or services in Edmonton to have a business licence.  And yes, this includes nonprofits and charities!

“Nonprofit organizations do require a licence to operate within the city of Edmonton limits,” explains Nonnie Jackson, Licensing and Policy Analyst with the City of Edmonton’s Sustainable Development Services. That said, many do not obtain a licence as they are simply unaware of the requirement.  Jackson emphasizes that “most organizations do not realize that they are breaking the rules.”

Specific organizations like churches and community leagues are exempt, however, most organizations will need to pay a fee of $41 annually.  “This bylaw isn’t new — but it hasn’t really been enforced by City staff,” Jackson said.  The bylaw requires City staff to ask organizations to register, and groups operating without a licence could face a fine but, as Jackson clarifies, “we are at the creating awareness stage. . . “.”

Nonprofits and charities operate for the benefit of the community and a business licence will not only ensure they are safe but also that they are properly registered to legally operate.  Requiring a non-profit to have a business licence allows the City of Edmonton to ensure compliance with relevant fire and safety requirements as well as all local, provincial and federal laws, rules, codes and regulations

Finally, a business licence is a good investment – having a licence shows your clients that you are a legitimate business that complies with local laws and regulations.

For additional information, please dial 311 in Edmonton.

Alain Bertrand Capacity Building Specialist Alain BertrandAlain Bertrand is a Capacity Building Specialist with the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.

Policies are policies, are policies (or are they?)

Not all policies are created equal. The rules we live, work, and play under impact our behaviours and our organization’s state of health. When I talk about policy manuals and policy writing, I almost always return to my training in appreciative inquiry (AI). One of the guiding beliefs in appreciative inquiry is that organizations move in the direction of what they study. The way we frame rules, decisions, and key documents shapes how we think about them.

The types of rules we make influence how we evaluate our programs, staff, and volunteers. These rules shape behaviour and the individuals involved tend to behave in a way that satisfies the policies requirements rather than build towards the organizations aspirations.

Here is an example:

Sick days – Why do we allow them and how many should we have?

If staff have too few days they may choose to save them for a rainy day. As a result, they come in to work when they have a cold or flu, kindly sharing it with the office.

Workplaces with adequate sick days that do not allow staff to carry a balance of unused days forward, often experience the “extra holiday time effect” where staff use their sick days as additional holiday days.

Organizations that provide adequate sick days and also allow staff to “bank” their unused time, tend to see staff use fewer sick days. This reduction in sick day usage also holds true in places where staff are allowed to use a portion of their sick days as personal health days. Check out these two articles talking about the policy changes and their effects on the Toronto District School Board and )

We try to address these ideas when we take part in appreciative policy writing.

Imagine that your board exists on the following continuum.


On the left of the continuum is reactionary.

Your meetings tend to focus on what happened yesterday, last week, last month, or just since the last meeting.

For example, today you are making a decision (and hopefully a policy) about financial management, specifically about petty cash and who has access.

Why? Earlier this month your new treasurer noticed that the petty cash financials do not balance. You have no idea why the numbers don’t align but you pass a motion about managing your petty cash to prevent theft.

The policy is strict, very prescriptive, and limits the use of petty cash. In some ways it makes some of your financial transactions difficult but your petty cash is “safe.”
On the right is visionary.

Your meetings are focused on the future. Where does the organization want to be in 5 years?

What kind of staff will help you get there? How do you hire, recruit, and train the kind of staff that will put the organization and its mission first?

How do we recruit and build staff that will come to the leadership, board, and the organization for help if they enter a personal crisis?

Finally, what kind of policies will get you there?

The board creates a collection of policies addressing recruitment, staff support, and financial management. They are more open, adaptive, and forward focused. Micromanaging the petty cash isn’t an issue because you have created policies that influence the petty cash behaviour at a higher level.

On the left, we write policies in response to what is going on and happening around us. On the right, we write policies to help shape us into what we wish to become.

The trick to appreciative policy writing is learning how to step back from the issues at hand and have constructive and exploratory conversations about where we want to go and how we shape our organization to get there. Having a strong Vision, mission, and guiding values framework to guide the board through the process is fundamental. More on that later.

David Feldman is the Governance and Leadership Specialist with the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.

Building Successful Partnerships

There is a growing demand worldwide from all sectors for greater competence in scoping and managing the partnering process, especially as many of the partnerships we are seeing evolve are non-traditional, cross sector collaborations.

Many of these partnerships are as a result of complex societal issues that cannot be tackled by one agency or sector in the traditional sense, and nor should they!! Thriving communities are dependent on all sectors working together to move the needle on these issues.

When we look at successful partnerships, we see that they are usually dedicated towards achieving common goals, with all members of the partnership working towards the same end. However, agreeing on a common goal does not necessarily mean that all members of the partnership expect to benefit in the same way. Different entities have different expectations about what they will gain. Ultimately reaching a shared understanding of those expectations is the first step toward finding the common ground necessary for effective collaboration.

Another characteristic of a successful partnership is frequent and effective communication that is ongoing, and honest. In the initial stages of developing a partnership, members need to be very forthright about their needs, what they can contribute to the partnership, and what their expectations are. Goals and objectives need to be specific and clearly communicated. Communication needs to be a priority between agencies as well as within agencies.

In building successful partnerships we often look for additional resources to help advance the process and this is where a partnership broker could help.  Partnership Brokers often act as managers of the partnering process by helping to initiate, develop, maintain, review, revise and support multi-stakeholder collaboration through a deep knowledge and understanding of what it takes to collaborate effectively. Skilled brokering can make all the difference to the effectiveness of complex networks, non-traditional alliances and consortia as well as partnerships.

An effective partnership requires an investment. It takes work but it’s worth it. We can do far more together than we can alone.