We’re often asked the question, “How does Amizade build new community partnerships around the world?” There’s a quick response that goes something like, “very, very carefully.” And then there is a longer, more nuanced, response that consists of a lot of trust-building, time, money, and most importantly listening.
Nearly every week of every year, a community organization from Kenya to Mongolia, Nepal to Albania, will contact our offices and request a partnership. Often times, these organizations find us through web searches, and other times they approach us from within our networks. For many years, we only sent the same response, saying that while we were grateful for their community efforts, we did not have the capacity to engage in a partnership. Having grown our programs in a more sustainable way, in 2011, Amizade’s Board of Directors lifted our 7-year moratorium on partner expansion, and we opened our doors to new partnerships once again.
Since 2011, we’ve opened two new partner sites, Trinidad and Central Appalachia. But before a program site can be fully formed and committed to, as apart of our Fair Trade Learning initiatives, Amizade goes through an exploratory process. Currently we are exploring three new sites; New Orleans, India, and Puerto Rico. During this process, we run pilot programs, build trust with our new partners, and consider the following ideas:
- Community interest
- Local investment
- US champion
- Local leadership (with English language skills)
- Start up cost considerations
- Risk assessment
Once all parties are comfortable, and we’ve been properly vetted by our new friends, we make a formal and long-term commitment with our partner communities, and they with us. No doubt, it’s a long and delicate process, and can take many years to graduate from exploration to full partnership. When we build partnerships carefully, though, we build the foundations for a strong model that program by program, person by person, community by community, builds a global network based on cross-cultural trust and critical reflection that honors nuance and inspires empathy. Simply put, we believe that the more carefully we build our partnerships, the more of a difference we can make.