Core Competency: Partnerships and Collaboration

It's impossible to develop a successful suicide prevention strategy without help and input from others. Bringing together a range of partners gives you the opportunity to interact with folks already involved in suicide prevention, as well as those in related fields, who may offer key resources and perspectives that are critical to a comprehensive response. Building partnerships requires teamwork, open dialogue, and compromise. Clearly establishing partner roles, functions, and responsibilities for the project builds positive relationships and avoids duplication of efforts. 

Identifying the mutual benefits of the collaboration can help you and your partners develop a shared vision for the partnership that can extend beyond the life of the grant. For example, if a campus counseling center and a wellness program agree on the goal of improving life skills among students, each could supplement the other's work to promote this mutual aim.  

As partnerships strengthen, you may want to consider a formal written agreement, such as a memorandum of understanding (MOU), to define partners' roles and identify the resources each will to bring to the table in the long term, regardless of staff changes and turnover. 

Involving target audience members in planning and carrying out your collaborative efforts is key to ensuring that the work you do together addresses the audience's needs. There are many ways to get audience members involved, from partnering with agencies representing the audience to conducting focus groups and stakeholder interviews. Another strategy is to involve target audience members as part of your advisory group. These individuals can help provide direction to your efforts, give you feedback on materials, and help you better understand the culture of your audience. 

To learn about partnering with substance abuse professionals, see SPRC Substance Abuse and Suicide Prevention Collaboration Continuum.  

Core Competencies 

  • You identify key stakeholders and bring them to the table. 

  • You establish connections with non-traditional partners (substance abuse, violence prevention, etc.) to better address shared underlying issues. 

  • You and your partners establish clear roles, functions, and responsibilities for the project. 

  • You develop a shared vision and mission with your partners, which become the guide for developing and implementing strategies. 

  • You consistently involve target audience members (e.g., students, school administrators) in program planning and implementation. 

  • You plan for how partnerships will be sustained over the long term. 

  • When appropriate, you seek more formal written agreements with partner organizations to strengthen and sustain your partnerships. 

How Your SPRC Prevention Specialist Can Help 

Your Prevention Specialist can: 

  • Help you think about how to start building collaborative relationships and who your potential partners may be 

  • Assist you in identifying strategic partners that address the issues, settings, and populations of focus in your grant 

  • Support coalition building by providing coaching for areas such as coalition leadership, structure, and sustainability 

  • Advise you on key elements of formal agreements with partners and direct you to sample agreements created by other grantees