History of PARTNER

The PARTNER Team (Program to Analyze, Record, and Track Networks to Enhance Relationships) and its supporting technical assistance and quality improvement process, is recognized as a beneficial component of understanding and enhancing collaborative efforts. PARTNER was launched as a social network analysis tool in 2008 with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The tool is now the center of a process of assessment, analysis, systems building enhancement, and relationship strengthening. A growing community of users has increased the demand for technical assistance from the PARTNER team. Accordingly, PARTNER has grown to a dynamic team of experts skilled in systems evaluation, using an interorganizational network approach. The PARTNER team is deeply engaged in facilitation, evaluation, research, and tool building, specifically related to organizational network and systems evaluations. The foundation of this work is a community-based participatory approach.

PARTNER was created in 2007, with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2007, Danielle Varda et al. (2008) designed the PARTNER tool to focus on measuring the process of collaboration, particularly the social infrastructure of interactions between members of public health collaboratives. In 2009, PARTNER went “online”, reprogrammed as an online database management and survey tool. As a result of a partnership between Varda and the University of CO Denver’s Computer Science Department, a group of students took on PARTNER in the Spring of 2009 as their Senior Project. The work they did on PARTNER was estimated to be worth approximately $65,000. They successfully made PARTNER more sophisticated and user friendly for a very broad audience. In 2010, Dr. Varda was awarded a second grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Office of Public Health to enhance and expand the use of PARTNER among public health departments around the country. With the funding, she was able to expand the PARTNER team to work on both the technical and academic sides of PARTNER. The results have been significant, with both enhancements to the PARTNER tool and website, a large and growing community of users, and several journal publications in print. In 2012, the RWJF once again awarded Varda a grant to support the continued use of PARTNER by the public health sector, and to create a sustainability plan for the long term. The PARTNER team has expanded their services and has authored a new tool to assess personal networks (the Patient-Centered Network App). The team and tools are funded by a diversified funding portfolio and continues to grow as part of the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affair’s Center on Collaborative Governance.

As of 2016, PARTNER has been used by over 750 communities and there are two times that many communities in the process of using the tool. To date, more than 1500 people have registered to use the PARTNER tool, with the largest growth in the last 4 years. The number of new users who registered to use PARTNER and the number of surveys created for implementation (called Collaboratives) have increased 419% since 2009 and continues to rise. The top users in the United Sates are in Colorado, California, New York, North Carolina. Texas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Washington, New Hampshire, Georgia, Washington D.C. , Kansas, and Illinois. Countries that use PARTNER include: Canada, UK, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, India, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Puerto Rico, Russia, Malaysia, Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, and Cameroon, among others.

The Foundation of the PARTNER Approach.

There are three foundational aspects to the PARTNER team’s work. In all projects, we use a Community Based Participatory Approach, apply the PARTNER Network Evaluation Framework, and utilize Network Leadership to guide our approach.

What is a Community Based Participatory Approach? Our evaluation approach is based on a Community Based Participatory Model, where stakeholders are involved in all levels of research and evaluation from project/logic model design, assessment selection and data collection, self-identification of needs and strengths, interpretation of findings and results, and an ongoing learning environment of reflective learning. We take an interactive approach to research and evaluation, emphasizing that the work is a partnership between the stakeholders, funders, and the evaluation team. We believe our team should have the skills and expertise needed to support the stakeholders, including access to other networks, familiarity with analytic methods and tools, and a keen ability to translate data and findings into easily understandable reports and other messaging. On the other hand, stakeholders involved bring their practical experiences to the work and we rely on their backstories, experiences, and feedback to collectively shape the evaluation as it unfolds over the life of the work. Stakeholder reactions, feedback, and suggestions provide validity and give the project practical applicability. We approach all of our work from this perspective.

The PARTNER Network Evaluation Framework. The PARTNER Network Evaluation Framework was developed through research and evaluation of over 150 community networks. While the evaluation approach continues to be enhanced as the team learns from ongoing projects, the four primary areas of measurement include: Attribution, Perceptions, Agreement, and Interrelationships. These are built into all PARTNER research and evaluation designs, are foundational in the PARTNER survey, and are used to guide the analysis and assessments. History of PARTNER

The PARTNER Team (Program to Analyze, Record, and Track Networks to Enhance Relationships) and its supporting technical assistance and quality improvement process, is recognized as a beneficial component of understanding and enhancing collaborative efforts. PARTNER was launched as a social network analysis tool in 2008 with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The tool is now the center of a process of assessment, analysis, systems building enhancement, and relationship strengthening. A growing community of users has increased the demand for technical assistance from the PARTNER team. Accordingly, PARTNER has grown to a dynamic team of experts skilled in systems evaluation, using an interorganizational network approach. The PARTNER team is deeply engaged in facilitation, evaluation, research, and tool building, specifically related to organizational network and systems evaluations. The foundation of this work is a community-based participatory approach.

PARTNER was created in 2007, with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2007, Danielle Varda et al. (2008) designed the PARTNER tool to focus on measuring the process of collaboration, particularly the social infrastructure of interactions between members of public health collaboratives. In 2009, PARTNER went “online”, reprogrammed as an online database management and survey tool. As a result of a partnership between Varda and the University of CO Denver’s Computer Science Department, a group of students took on PARTNER in the Spring of 2009 as their Senior Project. The work they did on PARTNER was estimated to be worth approximately $65,000. They successfully made PARTNER more sophisticated and user friendly for a very broad audience. In 2010, Dr. Varda was awarded a second grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Office of Public Health to enhance and expand the use of PARTNER among public health departments around the country. With the funding, she was able to expand the PARTNER team to work on both the technical and academic sides of PARTNER. The results have been significant, with both enhancements to the PARTNER tool and website, a large and growing community of users, and several journal publications in print. In 2012, the RWJF once again awarded Varda a grant to support the continued use of PARTNER by the public health sector, and to create a sustainability plan for the long term. The PARTNER team has expanded their services and has authored a new tool to assess personal networks (the Patient-Centered Network App). The team and tools are funded by a diversified funding portfolio and continues to grow as part of the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affair’s Center on Collaborative Governance.

As of 2016, PARTNER has been used by over 750 communities and there are two times that many communities in the process of using the tool. To date, more than 1500 people have registered to use the PARTNER tool, with the largest growth in the last 4 years. The number of new users who registered to use PARTNER and the number of surveys created for implementation (called Collaboratives) have increased 419% since 2009 and continues to rise. The top users in the United Sates are in Colorado, California, New York, North Carolina. Texas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Washington, New Hampshire, Georgia, Washington D.C. , Kansas, and Illinois. Countries that use PARTNER include: Canada, UK, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, India, Kenya, Netherlands, Norway, Puerto Rico, Russia, Malaysia, Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, and Cameroon, among others.

The Foundation of the PARTNER Approach.

There are three foundational aspects to the PARTNER team’s work. In all projects, we use a Community Based Participatory Approach, apply the PARTNER Network Evaluation Framework, and utilize Network Leadership to guide our approach.

What is a Community Based Participatory Approach? Our evaluation approach is based on a Community Based Participatory Model, where stakeholders are involved in all levels of research and evaluation from project/logic model design, assessment selection and data collection, self-identification of needs and strengths, interpretation of findings and results, and an ongoing learning environment of reflective learning. We take an interactive approach to research and evaluation, emphasizing that the work is a partnership between the stakeholders, funders, and the evaluation team. We believe our team should have the skills and expertise needed to support the stakeholders, including access to other networks, familiarity with analytic methods and tools, and a keen ability to translate data and findings into easily understandable reports and other messaging. On the other hand, stakeholders involved bring their practical experiences to the work and we rely on their backstories, experiences, and feedback to collectively shape the evaluation as it unfolds over the life of the work. Stakeholder reactions, feedback, and suggestions provide validity and give the project practical applicability. We approach all of our work from this perspective.

The PARTNER Network Evaluation Framework. The PARTNER Network Evaluation Framework was developed through research and evaluation of over 150 community networks. While the evaluation approach continues to be enhanced as the team learns from ongoing projects, the four primary areas of measurement include: Attribution, Perceptions, Agreement, and Interrelationships. These are built into all PARTNER research and evaluation designs, are foundational in the PARTNER survey, and are used to guide the analysis and assessments. All four of these dimensions help us understand the network,assess the strength of the network, and provide data to inform network leadership (the process of making decision about how to manage a networks). Below we briefly describe each one.

  • Attribution: Many networks are facilitated and organized by a primary organization, sometimes called a Lead Organization, a Network Administrative Organization, or a Backbone organization. Others are governed by a group of organizations. Regardless, we often want to know how the growth and development of relationships in a network are started and fostered over time. The PARTNER tool (customized) can assess how the growth of relationships in a network are attributed to certain entities.
  • Perceptions: An important piece of information for any network leader to understand are the perceptions that members hold of one another, as well as perceptions of the network itself. The PARTNER survey collects data on both of these aspects. Specifically, we learn about the perceptions network members have of one another in terms of the value of the partnership (measured as power/influence, resource contribution, and time commitment) and trust (measured as mission congruence, reliability, and communication).
  • Agreement: The extent to which members of a network agree on the way the network is functioning is a key component to network leadership. Whether the members report that the network is or is not achieving its outcomes is as important as whether or not they agree on these assessments. The degree to which a network’s members agree on these assessments is an indicator for a network leader of whether the network is functioning well or not.
  • Interrelationships: The actual relationships among members, including the intensity, quality, and content of the relationships tells us about the structure and strength of the network. The PARTNER survey uses standard social network methodology to assess the interrelationships of the network. We can then assess how attribution, perception, and agreement are associated with the structure of the network.

Network Leadership. The PARTNER Team’s work is based on network leadership, specifically a network principle that emphasizes that networks cannot grow exponentially without a threshold for losing the collaborative advantage. More partners, more meetings, and more interactions is not necessarily the most appropriate strategy for building a community network. Rather than simply reporting to funders and stakeholders that more meetings with more partners is an indicator of a growing, thriving network, we collect data and train on network leadership, which is a technique to use data to help members of a network think about the most efficient and effective ways to manage and grow a network. Techniques for doing this kind of work include thinking about how to reduce redundancy, leverage perceived value of partners, and structure a network to be the least burdensome yet most effective set of relationships to achieve a collective goal.

  • Attribution: Many networks are facilitated and organized by a primary organization, sometimes called a Lead Organization, a Network Administrative Organization, or a Backbone organization. Others are governed by a group of organizations. Regardless, we often want to know how the growth and development of relationships in a network are started and fostered over time. The PARTNER tool (customized) can assess how the growth of relationships in a network are attributed to certain entities.
  • Perceptions: An important piece of information for any network leader to understand are the perceptions that members hold of one another, as well as perceptions of the network itself. The PARTNER survey collects data on both of these aspects. Specifically, we learn about the perceptions network members have of one another in terms of the value of the partnership (measured as power/influence, resource contribution, and time commitment) and trust (measured as mission congruence, reliability, and communication).
  • Agreement: The extent to which members of a network agree on the way the network is functioning is a key component to network leadership. Whether the members report that the network is or is not achieving its outcomes is as important as whether or not they agree on these assessments. The degree to which a network’s members agree on these assessments is an indicator for a network leader of whether the network is functioning well or not.
  • Interrelationships: The actual relationships among members, including the intensity, quality, and content of the relationships tells us about the structure and strength of the network. The PARTNER survey uses standard social network methodology to assess the interrelationships of the network. We can then assess how attribution, perception, and agreement are associated with the structure of the network.

Network Leadership. The PARTNER Team’s work is based on network leadership, specifically a network principle that emphasizes that networks cannot grow exponentially without a threshold for losing the collaborative advantage. More partners, more meetings, and more interactions is not necessarily the most appropriate strategy for building a community network. Rather than simply reporting to funders and stakeholders that more meetings with more partners is an indicator of a growing, thriving network, we collect data and train on network leadership, which is a technique to use data to help members of a network think about the most efficient and effective ways to manage and grow a network. Techniques for doing this kind of work include thinking about how to reduce redundancy, leverage perceived value of partners, and structure a network to be the least burdensome yet most effective set of relationships to achieve a collective goal.