Developing a Partnership

Worthwhile partnerships take some care in building. Establishing community collaboration is a process that takes time and energy. You should not just jump right into it and you shouldn’t expect another person or agency to either.

1. Do a needs assessment

  • What need do you have to fill?
  • What outcome are you expecting?
  • What are you looking for from partners?
  • What can you offer to partners?
  • Are you ready to partner? Do you have the capacity? Do you have the support systems for partnering (staffing time, resources, policies, procedures, etc.)?

2. Look for potential partners

  • Consider services, values, reputation, etc.
  • Successful partnerships are based on shared interests.
  • Find out which person or people you should be working with. Make sure they have the authority to commit the organization to a partnership that meets your needs.
  • Prepare a list of “benefits” to the prospective partner(s) to act as incentives for both their management and front-line staff to buy-in to the relationship.

Community Literacy of Ontario developed a Partnering Policy and a Partnership Checklist, which may be useful to you. These can be found in the Sample Forms section of this module.

3. Be open to other ideas

  • A partnership is not a one-way street. Remember that the relationship also needs to meet the partners’ needs.
  • Be prepared for potential partners to bring other ideas to the process.

4. Make clear agreements and protocols. Depending on how formal and involved the partnership is, these may be verbal or in writing.

  • If all partners have formally agreed on their expectations from the partnership, there will be less chance of misunderstandings and disputes later.


Terms & References Comment
Partnership Relationship Management Working effectively with other service providers, local community groups or individuals from, or funded through, other ministries and divisions within the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in order to deliver seamless, well-coordinated services. LBS works closely with Ontario Works in local communities even though LBS and OW are associated with separate government ministries (MTCU and MCSS). Effective partnership relationship management is demonstrated when both partners share a common understanding of the clients’ needs and are able to view things from a perspective beyond their own programs and services.
Handbook of Employment Ontario Terms & References, CESBA


Literacy Services Planning and Coordination Process

Perhaps the most important partnerships LBS programs have are those that happen through Literacy Services Planning and Coordination (LSPC). LBS programs should be as responsive to the needs of their individual communities as possible, yet they need to avoid duplication of services or confusion about services in their communities. They need to work out referral processes. This is accomplished through the LSPC process.

“Literacy Services Plan – Annual plans developed by Regional Networks that identify community literacy needs based on demographic and labour market information, including projections on number of learners to be served, service gaps, service improvements and services to be delivered.”

Glossary, LBS Service Provider Guidelines, October 2016,

“The annual LBS funding cycle begins with the service providers in each community meeting process to determine literacy services needs for the next fiscal year,” LBS Service Provider Guidelines, October 2016. Bringing all the LBS service providers together annually to create a Literacy Service Plan (LSP), and regularly thereafter to review, evaluate and update the plan, determines:

  • if there are obvious gaps in service
  • if there are overlaps in services
  • which LBS agency will provide what services and to whom they should provide them
  • how they will make referrals to each other (An LBS referral form from Hamilton Literacy Council is included in the Sample Forms section of this module as an example of how LBS programs can refer among themselves in a service region.)

“Literacy and Basic Skills service providers plan literacy programming through the literacy services planning and coordination process. While this has served to develop coherence among LBS service providers, it is recognized that the focus for planning and coordination should extend beyond LBS service providers to those other organizations whose mandates complement LBS and who have the capacity to provide some of the additional supports needed.” Supporting Learners through Service Coordination and Referrals, October 2011

However, planning for LBS services in isolation from the rest of the community is not in keeping with the emphasis on seamless services. Because of this, the LSPC process goes beyond the literacy sector to bring other EO, adult education and community organizations to the planning table. By including those whose mandates complement LBS and who provide additional services, LBS learners can get the necessary supports and transitions.

The benefits of partnerships, which we talked about earlier, come into play as we extend our service planning to other LBS agencies and to the various community stakeholders. These other partners can provide different perspectives, identify different gaps, etc. to help develop and evaluate a Literacy Service Plan that better works with the community for the benefit of clients and learners.

“Regional Networks – Support organizations which are located around the province and which support all stream and sector LBS service providers by facilitating a literacy services planning and coordination process in each community. They support LBS service providers to continuously improve their organizational capacity to deliver the LBS program. Regional networks work closely with stream, sector and service organizations to support the coordination and delivery of professional development opportunities in a community.” Glossary, LBS Service Provider Guidelines, October 2016

It is the responsibility of the regional networks to facilitate the LSPC process and complete the Literacy Services Plans. For example:

  • Metro Toronto Movement for Literacy (MTML) has developed the Embarking on a Collaborative Exploration of Adult Learner Pathways Tool which looks at the learning pathways of Anglophone-stream LBS learners whose mother tongue or primary language is not English. This research supports the Ontario learning ministries’ priority of improving and validating learner pathways and strengthening the coordination between LBS programs and language training programs in Ontario (both non-credit and credit).

Wrap-Around Serviceswraparound

According to, one of the meanings of wrap-around is “all-inclusive; comprehensive”, and this is what supporting learners through coordination and referrals is all about. Using wrap-around, pertaining to services, started in the 1980’s to help youth with severe challenges stay in their homes. Since then, many different services have adopted the theory.

Case management is the key to making the wrap-around service delivery model work. (Wikipedia defines case management as the coordination of services on behalf of an individual person who may be considered a case in different settings such as health care, nursing, rehabilitation, social work, disability insurance, employment, and law.) Literacy learners often have multiple barriers. These barriers, combined with low skills, make it difficult for learners to know where to get help in their community. Working collaboratively among services to remove these other barriers allows learners to work on their learning goals.

Questions and Activities for Reflection

1. Think about an experience you had while partnering with another organization. If it was a positive experience, what made it so? If it was a negative experience, what were the challenges?

2. In retrospect, how might these challenges have been addressed?

3. Take some time and reflect on an organization with which you might want to partner (more). What would some advantages be for your agency, for clients/learners and for the other agency?

4. Locate and review a copy of the Literacy Service Plan (LSP) for your community. Are you clear on where your agency fits in the plan? If not, talk to your supervisor or regional network coordinator.

5. How might you become more familiar with the programs and services in your community from which learners may benefit?

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