Branches are created and sustained through internal and external relationships. The mission of branches calls for collaboration with communities, and a range of civil society, private and public sector organisations. Branches combine their core competencies with those of others to address needs in communities.

This means that branches and their partners have to work with the diversity of many organisations and interests.

However, working with diversity is not simple. Branches and their partners need to build relationships with each other while feeling loyal to their respective constituencies. They need to build a positive emotional climate that fosters collaboration while also bringing their differences to the table. Too much focus on building a positive relationship may be at the expense of representing their interests, while too strong a focus on interests may make it difficult to build trust.

So working together is a challenge. The key to successful collaboration is the quality of the relationships between the branch and its partners and this is characterised by the way diversity is explored, recognised, and acknowledged.

Tips and ideas

Some best practices include:

Building trust

This requires a climate where constructive confrontation between partners is possible. Representatives need to feel safe to share and work through differences. In such a climate, perspective taking is possible, empathy can be shown and repairing can be done if difference has led to difficult emotions.

Regular reflection

Reflective space is important because it allows the branch and its partners to review their dynamics so as to become more aware of how they are experiencing the relationship. Reflections on how a collaborative task was undertaken and how the relationships evolved during the task helps to develop understanding, to explore the reality of the relationship, repair any perceived unfairness, and adjust how individuals are working together.