Preparing youth for the 21st century workplace is the goal of our teachers and institutions…and certainly having prepared 21st workers is a key requirement for our private industry.  It’s this point of intersection that creates an opportunity and mandate for institutions to explore and embrace public and private partnership opportunities.  As we are faced with the urgent challenge of preparing our students for an increasingly competitive global workplace, the appeal of broader, substantive partnerships has grown significantly.

Local education agencies have historically sought out and valued partnerships mainly for the funding they offered. More recently however, educators have come to recognize the value in sharing the immense responsibility of preparing youth for the 21st century with the broader community.  We have embraced this shared responsibility with our Partners in Learning outreach in the US…part of a global Microsoft outreach to over 100 countries.  Based on collaborative agreements with governments and non-governmental organizations, Partners in Learning is notable for its engagement of every level of the education sector, from state departments of education to school and university leaders, teachers, and students.

Partnerships of this scale have become an opportunity for Microsoft to advance beyond its typical role as grantor, into more strategic roles as a full and equal partner with education. By offering help with planning and by contributing expertise in business management, technology integration, and leadership development, Partners in Learning initiatives evolved into “true” partnerships.

We have learned a lot from our Partners in Learning engagement - lessons that have helped us respond to education needs, improve our services/programs, and deepen our commitment to supporting the needs of institutions, teachers and students.  We have also learned lessons that have helped us understand how to deliver mutually valuable public and private partnerships…and have shared them in a resource I think you’ll find quite helpful…especially as you respond to increasing economic and workforce stimulus pressure.

Our whitepaper,“Establishing Public/Private Partnerships,” provides insight into how to establish, monitor and extend partnerships and identifies some checkpoints to determine if a partnership is worth pursuing in the first place. Here are some of the key areas covered:

  • Degree of mutuality. Will there be equality in decision making, resource exchange, accountability, transparency and participation? Will there be mutual benefit and respect?
  • Retention of organizational identity. Do we understand the unique assets and skills each partner brings to the table? Have we considered both tangible assets, such as money and material, and intangible or soft resources, such as expertise with collaborative processes?
  • Readiness and ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. Will the partners commit to strong communication and a continual process to refine the partnership’s vision, goals and procedures?
  • Transparent partner motivations, expectations and benefits. Has each partner clearly articulated motivations and expectations for participating in the partnership? Are partner benefits explored and supported?
  • Leadership and a shared vision. Are partners represented by leaders, who can make decisions, participate in strategic planning and ensure accountability? Are they committed to a shared vision? Are they innovative thinkers?
  • Willingness to embrace change and remain flexible. Do partners expect and embrace change? Can the partnership weather turnover in personnel?
  • A clear plan with goals, objectives and accountability. Is the plan clearly understood by all and not subject to interpretation? Does it include plans for sustainability?

Whether you’re pursuing a partnership with Microsoft or other local businesses/institutions in your geography, I think you’ll find the whitepaper enlightening and a good template for your engagement.