> Partnership Evolution
> Incorporating Self-interests
How do you acknowledge self-interests when simply raising the issue is often taboo? The best approach is to do it in two stages, whether you are beginning a new partnership or are in an existing collaboration—especially if the current group seems at all stuck.
Stage one: Have a general discussion. Prepare a brief handout that raises the importance of dealing with self-interests. One way is to simply copy the introduction to this unit. Then discuss self-interests in general and how they affect groups, making sure that you never ask members to reveal their own personal or organizational agendas. Further, acknowledge that self-interests are neither good nor bad, but are always present.
This discussion may not appear to accomplish much at first, but creates a group process for disclosing self-interests later on.
Stage two: Hold a more personal discussion. Theorists say that three psychological needs motivate all behavior:
- the need to feel competent;
- the need to feel self-determining; and
- the need to feel connected to others.
On paper or using a flipchart, have the group list the kinds of self-interests people might exhibit in each of the three categories. For example, a member might want to demonstrate competence or expertise by making a group presentation. Or another person might want access to information and skills that others have in order to feel more competent. Remind members that the self-interests you discuss don’t necessarily apply to anyone in the group.
Now do the same thing in all three categories for the organizations that are represented in the partnership. For example, an organizational self-interest might be to have greater control over the agenda or access to funds for its own programs to ensure their survival and growth. Again, acknowledge that self-interests are neither good nor bad, but are simply present.
This two-stage discussion lays the foundation for revealing self-interests without requiring participants to actually divulge their own. But here’s a warning: Some members might feel this is not the best use of meeting time when there is so much to be done, especially when the group is responding to outside funding requirements that rarely allow the time for this kind partnership-building. This is where the leaders, the core-initiators, remind the group of the lily-pool phenomenon that taking more time upfront on these issues saves time in the long run.