How to Build Win-Win Educational Partnerships

By: Bryan Ochalla

The story behind one association's successful partnership venture.

Considering the International Council of Shopping Centers holds approximately 350 meetings around the world each year, it shouldn't be much of a stretch to say the staff is well versed when it comes to educating ICSC's 55,000 members.

That said, ICSC doesn't educate its members, composed of shopping-center owners, developers, managers, marketing specialists, investors, lenders and retailers, all by itself. Often, staff turns to other associations for assistance, as they did for the recent University of Shopping Centers program, which featured classes conducted in partnership with five real-estate organizations.

Such partnerships allow ICSC to broaden the depth and scope of its educational resources, says ICSC's Senior Staff Vice President and Director of Professional Development Services Rudy Milian, SCMD, SCSM. They also allow ICSC to increase the size of the pool of potential participants and improve the networking potential for those who ultimately attend.

How does an association find and develop a win-win relationship with an educational partner? According to Milian, "the most important part of the process is to look for organizations that have a complementary constituency and provide services that are complementary to the services you provide."

Milian also says to make sure partnerships aren't one sided. All of the organizations involved "must be willing to share responsibilities and benefits in a fair manner so as to mutually benefit each other," he says. At the very least, he adds, "they should be willing to market to each of their member groups."

Milian says to consider the following before moving forward:

Meet with a potential partner's key players and have them meet your organization's key players, too. Involving CEOs of each organization in these meetings is preferred, as it shows commitment from the top.

Attend a conference held by potential partners and invite their executives to attend your events. This allows each organization to evaluate the level of professionalism of the other and reveals if the audiences are compatible.

Get it in writing. Make sure a contract is in place between the partnering associations so nothing can be misinterpreted by either side.

Bryan Ochalla is a freelance writer based in Seattle. Email: [email protected]

Bryan Ochalla

Bryan Ochalla is a freelance writer and editor based in Seattle.