Maximizing the Impact of your Partnerships: An Interview with Rishi Manchanda


July 22, 2021

Our last blog post provided some pointers to help guide your thinking as your team continues their sustainability journey throughout Year 2. To dig a bit deeper on this topic and learn more about the role of partnerships in sustainability, we connected with our newest HCCC advisory council member and CEO of HealthBegins, Dr. Rishi Manchanda.

One of HealthBegins current projects is working with statewide representatives from different sectors to advance health equity and food security in South Carolina. Their most recent accomplishment: managing a statewide learning collaborative that brings community organizations and their healthcare partners together to improve food security and racial equity.

Building strong relationships like these between organizations is an excellent strategy to sustain the work of a community-led project. However, finding a way to create a lasting partnership requires some level-setting.

Identifying your frame of reference  

When it comes to sustainability, perspective matters, according to Manchanda. Sustainability must be meaningful for individuals, institutions and organizations, as well as for the ecosystem that they operate in. Particularly for multisector collaborations like the Challenge, your frame of reference will encompass multiple institutions as there are multiple partners involved in your work.

“Sustainability means something different when we're looking at it from a perspective of a hospital, clinical practice or community-based organization, for example,” Manchanda said. “And what I appreciate about what the Challenge is asking [for] is that it is inclusive of multiple frames of reference.”

If you are working with multiple partners, odds are, sustainable outcomes for your program will require you to look at what sustainability means not just for your organization, but also collectively for each of the stakeholders in your project.

“This is important to note because the concerns, challenges and time horizons that people are thinking about when it comes to sustainability can be different,” he said.

Identifying your capacity for sustainability 

Manchanda also explained that an important piece of strengthening partnerships is looking at and identifying the capacities of your organization to be an effective partner in advancing health equity. The capacity to run an organization is important, but the capacity to partner with other organizations is a whole different ball game.

“There needs to be the capacity to address inequity when you're looking at sustainability. So, do you have the partner with others to address inequities?” Openly acknowledging strengths and weaknesses in your ability to be a strong partner can set you up for success in your partnerships.

Some important questions to ask yourself when working to establish sustainable partnerships within your projects:

  1. Do you have the capacity to collect, evaluate and share data across your partnerships?
  2. Do you have the ability to communicate clearly and effectively to your different stakeholders so there is a feeling of shared ownership and feedback from partners?
  3. Is there agreement and alignment across your partners on the financial support needed to coordinate and sustain your partnerships?

Identifying a shared vision and mechanisms for accountability 

Another important piece of strengthening your partnerships: identifying mechanisms to keep you and your partners committed to the overarching mission of your work. Sharing a common vision can address the common needs of the partnership to help guide your project. So, think about the ways in which your project is showing and being held accountable to your commitment towards justice, improved equity, and better health outcomes. What internal motivators within your organization are keeping you true to your mission? What external policies and stakeholders are keeping you accountable for health equity?

According to Manchanda, while we advance concrete health equity strategies through multisector collaboratives, we also need to help strengthen accountability mechanisms for health equity at a community, state and federal level. For example, as your team continues your sustainability journey throughout Year 2, to what extent are people with lived experience and who belong to historically marginalized communities involved in governance and oversight of your work? The work you and your partners are doing needs to meaningfully engage your community -- not just as advisors but as leaders with oversight responsibility -- or else any plans you have for sustainability might fall flat.

“If these communities don't have an ability to provide oversight of health equity efforts, then we should expect that institutional motivation and capacity to do the work won’t be enough to achieve sustainable outcomes.”

Sustainable outcomes from your partnerships can seamlessly exist if there is a shared understanding of the goals/capacities of your project and shared accountability. Once those pieces of the equation are put together, there is no limit to growth and learning your partnerships will experience. 

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