Maeve coordinates the work of the Partnerships Team, and leads the Partnerships work of Bridge 47.
Bridge 47 is built on the belief that Global Citizenship Education (GCE) is part of the answer to many of the biggest global challenges. But what good is GCE as a tool if we are keeping it to ourselves? Bridge 47 has an intimidating but exciting mission; that is to bring GCE out of its comfort zone.
This is where partnerships come in. We are aiming to partner with varied partners who can help us bring GCE to new audiences and demonstrate that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved without GCE. Here are six key learnings in our story so far.
Leveraging existing relationships has been helpful for us. For example, our consortium member, EADI’s work with the United Nations System Staff College has led to our discussions about a global partnership with them which can bring GCE to thousands of people.
Looking at opportunities to build upon existing work is also important. For example, in Denmark, we are leading conversations with two major NGO platforms in order to enhance the great advocacy work that they are already doing and move them towards advocating on GCE.
In our early conversations with prospective partners, we spent a lot of time explaining who we are and what GCE is. It’s challenging to do this without reverting to jargon or over-explaining ourselves. To become more effective communicators, we’ve invested in our messaging. We’ve been working with tone of voice expert, John Simmons to learn how to use simpler, more engaging language and to use stories in order to make stronger connections.
Bridge 47 has a big focus on disseminating lessons but that doesn't mean only learning from our successes: failure is okay as long we reroute our course and share what we learned. We’ve made great headway with a potential partner only for our progress to become impeded when our main contact moved jobs and we’ve had great first meetings only for it to prove inexplicably difficult to get a second one. To manage these setbacks, we’ve learned to be adaptable. Partnerships are after all made up of people and sometimes other priorities get in the way.
We initially underestimated the amount of research needed to make the right first impression. However, deep learning of who a partner is and how to approach them pays off and we’re seeing the results of this in places including Ireland where we are in partnership talks with a responsible business network about bringing their private sector members and our civil society organisations together.
Sometimes finding areas of mutual interest requires tough analysis. When thinking about approaching the police academy in Denmark, we had to question ourselves about what we can offer them that may meet their needs. While we have many differing priorities, our mutual interests are peace and helping solve community problems. Our thinking is that by training the police in GCE it can help to ensure they have greater understanding of communities that may differ from their own.
How partnerships are assembled matters far less than the substance of the partnership. Sometimes we need to expand beyond traditional one-on-one partnerships to strengthen the work. For example, in Estonia we have created a coalition partnership bringing together NGOs, private sector such as DHL and Telia, Tallinn University and state institutions. The format gets each of these actors committed in spite of areas of their different interests.
We’ve also had flexibility on how partnerships are formed. For example, for partnership that we are developing in Ireland between an NGO and the media, we are taking a more gradual route by starting with trainings for journalists and then building into a partnership.
Our last learning sounds obvious but may be the most important one. Real courage is needed to initiate partnerships with those who may never have heard of GCE and may work in an entirely different arena. It takes perseverance to approach and chase up someone who you are worried may not initially be interested in talking to you.
Overall, there are many things we are still figuring out. At the heart of it all, we are challenging ourselves to ensure every partnership we undertake can deliver real and long-lasting results.