At M-Powered Projects, we’re all about building partnerships. We’ve seen firsthand how European partnerships can deliver cutting-edge innovation, all while fostering lasting, respectful, and fruitful professional collaborations that transcend borders, languages, and culture. This is the beauty of European cooperation and it’s a big part of what we love about these projects.

However, we’ve also seen projects where partners couldn’t wait for them to be over. Projects were partners couldn’t find a common language, those with lot of frustration and misunderstandings.

You don’t want this to happen to your project. So, choose your partners wisely!

In this article, you’ll find some advice on how to construct effective partnerships, where to find partners, and how to check their suitability before offering them a place in your project.

What partners will add value to your projects?

  • Partners you can count on. I’m not advising you to work exclusively with organisations you already know. Without building new connections, you won’t expand your network and take full advantage of partnership opportunities. However, it can be beneficial to have a partner or two in each consortium with whom you have a well-established cooperation. This can help to build a strong foundation as these partners can give you support when needed. They’ll also share their knowledge with less experienced partners.

  • Look for a gap in your consortium – what skills are missing? First, identify the skills gaps and then look for organizations that can fill them. There is no point in creating a consortium of partners that work in the exact same area and offer the exact same perspective. This can create an echo chamber that stifles innovation. Look for opportunities to work with organisations that can tackle a problem using multiple different approaches and methodologies to create something truly new, cross-cutting, and innovative.

  • Don’t just invite the “old timers” – organisations with many years of experience in projects can offer invaluable insight and add great strength to a consortium. However, it can also be beneficial to include one or two partners who are completely new to European projects. This can inject a fresh perspective into a partnership and open new opportunities for learning and collaboration. However, it is important to be clear with new partners from the outset about what is involved, the level of commitment necessary, and the common ups and downs one can face in such partnerships. They should fully understand what they are signing up for! If the project is funded, these partners will also need closer monitoring and more support as they adjust to this new system that can often be confusing and bureaucratic to newcomers.

  • Get partners from different parts of Europe. Geographically dispersed partners representing different cultures and perspectiveswill add value to your partnership.

Where to find partners?

  • Use your existing network to find new partners. For instance, whenever I look for a new partner organisation, I consult my colleague from Italy who writes projects for education organisations. It’s a win-win scenario for both of us because I trust his recommendations and he gets to help his clients expand their network.

  • Social media such as LinkedIn has groups dedicated to different programmes such as Horizon2020 or Erasmus+. They’re good channels for publishing a post about your project and to attract organizations that may join your consortium.

  • National contact points are set up by the EU to support various programmes, e.g. Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+. They may be able to connect you with potential partners.

Choosing new partners

It can be tempting to partner with an organisation you don’t know very well because they sound good on paper, or because they would fill a vital gap in your consortium. However, while it is good to embrace new partnership opportunities, it can leave you open to some risk. How can you be sure that they will be easy to work with and will bring value to your project?

Unfortunately, you can never be 100 percent certain as there is always risk in collaboration. However, there are some simple ways to reduce your chances of entering an unsuccessful partnership:

  • Get to know your potential partners. Check what kind of projects they’ve been involved in before.

  • Maybe you know someone who has worked with this organisation before? Get some references.

  • Organise Skype meetings. Get a feeling for who they are. Is there rapport between you?

  • See how responsive they are. Do they answer your emails and provide all the information you asked them for? If the collaboration is difficult while you prepare a project proposal, it won’t get any better if the project is approved.

  • Don’t be afraid to turn down a partner if you’re unsure about working with them. You don’t have to burn your bridges! Be respectful. But remember that, if the project is successful, you will be committed to working with this organisation for an extended period, so choose wisely!

Building European partnerships is a core module in our Successful team = successful project course, which we run in Ireland and Poland. Check our website for more information.

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