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Value of Partnerships

Table of Contents
  1. Characteristics of ideal partnerships
  2. Types of Potential Partners
  3. Identifying Potential Partners
  4. Tools

The success of environmental and policy strategies depends on their adoption and integration into the fabric of our communities, workplaces, cultures, and routines. Partnerships are essential for making physical activity more convenient and accessible for adults with arthritis. Working within and across multiple sectors increases the likelihood that physical activity strategies are embedded and can be sustained and expanded over time.

Regardless of the sector in which you work, having a variety of partners can broaden your impact. Partnerships will expand the public health action framework for arthritis and change physical and social environments to support physical activity among adults with arthritis, in much the same way that such strategies have proven effective for other public health issues. Partnerships may also lead to sustained improvements in overall health status among adults with arthritis and those who have chronic conditions other than arthritis.

Selecting the ideal partners takes time and effort. Thoughtful consideration goes into:

  • Identifying key characteristics of ideal partners
  • Researching potential partners and assessing their collaboration potential
  • Determining how potential partners can contribute to and benefit from collaboration
  • Contacting potential partners and negotiating joint ventures.

Characteristics of ideal partners

Defining characteristics of successful partners are essential. The ideal potential partner:

  • Sees adoption of physical activity environmental and policy strategies as serving its organization’s mission
  • Serves and/or has constituents that are likely to include large numbers of adults with arthritis, at risk of developing arthritis, or caring for someone with arthritis
  • Is able to commit adequate organizational support to sustain strategies over time, including funding, staff, expertise, research skills, policy analysis skills, data, leadership, visible champions, facilitation and coordination skills, credibility, access to decision makers, and access to networks and partners

Other important characteristics of ideal partners include:

  • A willingness to:
    • achieve shared vision and joint goals and objectives
    • share resources and expertise
  • Support from their organizational leadership
  • Interest in and capacity to:
    • market the interventions and recruit program leaders, instructors and/or class participants
    • collect and share data on implementation of interventions and their impact
    • provide personnel to assist in strategy coordination and delivery
    • function as a viable team member in a partnership
  • History of working successfully with state health departments, voluntary health and other organizations that address arthritis or other chronic diseases
  • Credibility in the community
  • No conflicts of interest

Types of Potential Partners

Partnering agencies and organizations can be found in all six sectors; examples of potential partners within the six sectors is shared below. It is important to note, however, that many potential partners do not fit neatly into one sector; some work across multiple sectors to accomplish their missions and serve their constituents. Collaboration both within and across sectors is encouraged to establish and sustain strong partnerships for boosting physical activity among adults with arthritis.

Community and Public Health:

National, state, and local public health agencies; aging services; schools of public health; volunteer and non-profit organizations that work with communities and constituencies on arthritis and other issues of aging; faith-based institutions; and governmental and non-governmental organizations who could promote physical activity among their constituencies in a way that is safe and effective.

Health Care

Licensed health care professionals working with or serving adults in a variety of settings as providers; public and private insurers; and health care administrators and managers.

Transportation, Land Use, and Community Design:

National, state, and local organizations, agencies, boards, and governing bodies that address transportation, development patterns, built environment, public spaces, public works, and community design and planning issues.

Business and Industry:

Park, Recreation, Fitness, and Sport:

Public and private organizations invested in promoting, supporting, and providing recreation and fitness opportunities for children and adults.

Mass Media and Communication:

Organizations that develop health communications or engage in public and private marketing of messages on the importance of physical activity for adults and available evidence-based interventions.

National Organizations

Several national organizations helped sponsor the Report underlying this Implementation Guide – Environmental and Policy Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Adults With Arthritis. Consider connecting with them to learn about what they are doing and if they have local entities or chapters in your state or community.

Academic Partners

Other Relevant National Organizations Include:

Identifying Potential Partners

Build upon existing connections and natural relationships

  • Research current and past individuals who have served as members of the state arthritis or other chronic disease coalitions and other key individuals involved with the Arthritis Foundation or state health department who are affiliated with or could open doors to partners in other sectors.
  • Explore the potential for expanding existing organization collaborations. For example, look into affiliations that your organization already has collaborated with to do similar types of community interventions or chronic disease initiatives. Look also to organizations that have sponsored arthritis-related fundraising events or other activities.
  • Review the locations where you are currently offering programs or interventions and see if there is a headquarters, regional office, or umbrella organization in those areas with whom you could work to expand your programmatic offerings.

Know your prospects

  • After reviewing all of your information about key organizations in your area, develop a list of potential partners.
  • Do your homework in advance to understand the potential partners’ capabilities, resources, and interests. and areas where there may be a natural fit or easy match between the organization’s operations, activities, or products and your arthritis goals.
  • Spend a bit of time researching the organization’s culture and structure to identify the key gatekeepers in the organization who must approve the partnership and/or champion the program activities.

Enhance partnerships with diverse populations

Be selective

The Collaboration Worksheet will help you fine-tune your list of organizations with the most potential. The first part of the checklist screens which organizations meet the criteria as a possible partner. The second part of this tool helps you determine an organization’s potential for collaboration, identify what roles it might be able to play and lay the groundwork for your approach.

Prioritize your list

Prioritize the list of organizations to approach based on strategic considerations such as which prospects:

  • Have the greatest capacity to reach the most people?
  • Have the greatest geographic reach or are best positioned to introduce and expand the programs into a high-priority underserved area?
  • Are the best match in terms of your vision and goals? For example, who already has a stake in arthritis?
  • Appear to be the easiest with whom to start and maintain a long-term partnership?
  • Have decision-making authority and/or the greatest amount of influence?
  • Have or have access to resources in the form of funding, staff, expertise, research skills, policy analysis skills, data, leadership, visible champions, facilitation and coordination skills, credibility, access to decision-makers, access to networks & partners, etc.

Clarify roles and commitments

  • Respective roles of your organization and your partners for strategy design, implementation, and evaluation should be clearly defined, agreed upon, and documented to ensure long-term success.
  • Broaden awareness of the arthritis physical activity interventions and their benefits. Market research has shown that there is a low level of awareness among consumers about the availability and benefits of effective physical activity strategies for adults with arthritis. Targeted marketing strategies with a broader reach are needed to increase the number of participants.
  • Work with partners to identify the type of environmental or policy change you are seeking, and how best to accomplish that end.
  • Document and share progress and impact. As you design your strategies, consider how you will monitor and measure success. Specific benchmarks and outcome indicators should be identified and data collected to ensure that they can be tracked. Examining progress and impact helps identify areas for improvement and builds stronger partnerships. Celebrate successes and use lessons learned and identified strengths to grow the partnership and its outputs.


  1. How to Research Potential Partners
  2. Collaboration Worksheet
  3. Community Assessment
  4. Coalition Building Resources

How to Research Potential Partners

This tip sheet provides general tips on learning more about potential partners and a set of questions to ask to help you in determining which partners are the best prospects to pursue.

Click here to view the PDF version of this tip sheet


  • Obtain the potential partner’s annual report and review its Web site.
  • Search the Internet to learn about its recent activities.
  • Go to the library reference section and seek out information about the potential partner.
  • Check with the Chamber of Commerce and Better Business Bureau to see what information they have about the organization.
  • Ask people you know to introduce you to someone they know within the prospective organization who can provide more information about the potential partner.
  • Identify the person or group of people who might be potential gatekeepers or champions who can help you get your foot in the door. Obtain their contact information.
  • Ask who are the key decision makers or parties who should be involved in developing and approving collaborative agreements. Obtain their contact information.
  • Set up an orientation meeting and interview your identified key contacts.

Additional Questions to Consider

Mission and Goals

  • What is the potential partner’s mission and/or vision statement? Will this mission be served if the organization adopts policy and environmental strategies for improving physical activity among adults with arthritis?
  • Is it interested in doing evidence-based programs or interventions to change policies and environmental strategies, and willing to stay true to those programs and interventions?
  • Does it have a known interest in or connection to arthritis?
  • How committed is it to prevention, a public health approach, evidence-based programs, the importance of physical activity and self-management, social equity, and other key concepts?
  • What are its products or services and what projects is it involved in now?
  • Is it interested in getting involved in new partnerships and in offering new interventions? What kind of new strategies are they interested in pursuing?
  • What will be the benefits of the partnership to your organization?

Organization Structure and Capacity

  • Who are its clients or constituents: People with arthritis and if so, how many? A population likely to have a large percentage of people with arthritis? Does it have access to specific target populations of interest (such as culturally diverse, rural or otherwise underserved groups)?
  • What is its geographic scope? How many facilities, offices, or sites does it have? Where are these located? During what hours are the facilities open? Do these facilities meet standards for ADA accessibility, warm water pools, etc.?
  • Is it willing and able to provide staff or volunteers who could be trained to coordinate and manage interventions for adults with arthritis? Would it be able to pay its staff to oversee the strategies and/or train others to implement them?
  • Is it willing and able to provide staff to coordinate logistics such as recruiting and training leaders, scheduling classes, reserving rooms, collecting data, etc.?
  • Is its organizational structure centralized or decentralized? How are decisions made about implementing new programs? How difficult will it be to get a commitment to offering the interventions? Does its key leadership support delivery of arthritis-related policies and strategies?
  • Does it have the capacity to market interventions effectively to the community or constituents? What are its communication channels (company newsletter, member Web site etc.)? How does it make its services known within its organization and to the general public?
  • Does it have the financial resources to adopt the policies? What kind of funding does it have? Where does it get support? Could it provide funding to support training and other implementation costs? Will it charge for access to the intervention? If so, who will set the fees? Who will retain the income?
  • What kind of equipment will it be able to provide? Do they have computers, audio-visual/video, or exercise equipment?
  • Is it willing to report program data as requested and adhere to quality standards? What are its existing accountability mechanisms for similar types of interventions or community projects?
  • In view of its volume of commitments, how much time is it likely to commit to arthritis efforts?
  • What will your organization need to bring to the table to make this a successful partnership? Will you need to be responsible for funding, training, marketing support, staff support, etc.?
  • What kind of ongoing support will it need after policy and environmental strategies are adopted?

Partnership / Community Program History

  • Does it have an existing relationship with the AF or the state health department? How well has it related to and interacted with AF or state health department staff?
  • What is its previous involvement with community activities?
  • What are its current activities, strategies, and policies regarding arthritis and/or other chronic diseases? Do they have documented success in achieving the goals of their efforts?
  • With what other organizations or coalitions is it involved with or has it worked?
  • How has it partnered in the past and at what levels? Has it served as an event sponsor or program collaborator? Has it shared information or resources, etc.? Has it played an effective role in similar types of past or present initiatives?
  • Has it consistently fulfilled expectations? Is it reliable, accessible, and committed to supporting similar types of efforts over the long term?
  • How stable is it? Its top management team? Its employees?

Community Standing

  • How is it regarded by the community? Does the target audience view it as a credible agency?
  • Has it been involved in any controversies that might affect a collaborative effort? Are any of the organization’s members or leaders considered controversial within the community?
  • What is its competition? Who else does similar work or provides similar services to the community? Is it the best organization in its category?

Collaboration Worksheet

This worksheet is a tool to help you narrow down your list of potential partners to those organizations that have the most potential. Use it after you have gathered information about the partner through background research and meetings with representatives of the organization. The first part of the checklist will help you screen which organizations meet the criteria as a partner. The second part provides more information to help you further assess the organization’s potential for collaboration, identify what roles they might be able to play, and lay the groundwork for your approach.

View Collaboration Worksheet

Community Assessment

Arthritis Foundation Community Assessment Tool

Coalition Building Resources

Cohen, L, Chavez, V & Chemini, S. (2010).

Prevention is Primary: Strategies for Community Well Being. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

This practical text describes the overarching principles guiding prevention efforts, with a focus on social justice, health equity, and community resilience. Larry Cohen is president of the Prevention Institute and the website is comprehensive.

Batan M, Butterfoss FD, Jaffe A, LaPier T. CDC Division of Adult and Community Health, Healthy Communities Program. (2011).

The Sustainability Planning Guide for Healthy Communities. Atlanta, GA: CDC.

This guide uses science- and practice-based evidence to help coalitions, public health professionals, and community stakeholders create, implement, and evaluate their sustainability plans. It suggests a process for sustaining policy strategies and related activities, introduces varied approaches to sustainability, and demonstrates sustainability planning in action with examples.


This site offers practical tools, best practices, training and leadership development for leaders of nonprofit organizations, including coalitions. It provides an extensive database; consultants; material on nonprofit governance; and a biennial international conference.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.

Strategic Alliance for Health (SAH) Implementation Guides. SAH communities help :

  1. change policies, systems, and environments to promote physical activity and nutrition and reduce tobacco use/exposure;
  2. improve/ increase access to quality healthcare;
  3. eliminate health disparities; and
  4. reduce complications/incidence of chronic disease. The 14 Guides help communities replicate strategies across sectors and chronic disease risk factors. Each offers lessons learned/ guidance for planning, evaluating, and sustaining strategies.

Coalitions Work.

This is a comprehensive coalition building site that offers tools and other resources for building effective coalitions at the community level. Tools for every facet of coalition work are downloadable and free. Training, strategic planning and problem solving for coalitions are available by consultation with Frances Butterfoss, founder and president.

Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA).

CADCA’s National Coalition Institute provides coalition training, technical assistance, evaluation, research and capacity building. Its website has information on policy and advocacy, training materials (Newsletters, Strategizers, Primers, Beyond the Basics, and Briefs) and interactive media. Materials focus on substance abuse but are applicable for all community prevention efforts.

Community Commons

This healthy communities’ movement website offers access to:

  1. GIS data at state, county, zip code, block group, tract and point-levels;
  2. Mapping, visualization, analytic, impact and communication tools;
  3. Profiles and video narratives of collaboratives that are funded by philanthropy and government to build healthy, sustainable, livable and equitable communities; and
  4. Peer forums to explore similar interests/challenges hosted by national technical assistance providers.

Community Organizing and Community Building for Health and Welfare, 3rd Ed.

New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Provides approaches community building/organizing from collaborating with communities on assessment and issue selection to using coalition building, media advocacy, and social media to enhance effectiveness. The appendices offer a variety of guidelines, exercises and training tools.

Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition. (2002).

From the Ground Up: An Organizing Handbook for Healthy Communities.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada: The Search Institute. This workbook provides a starting point for organizing healthy communities’ efforts.

Pew Partnership for Civic Change. Solutions for America; The Guide for Civic Problem Solving.

This guide summarizes effective evidence-based strategies in addressing healthy communities and families, thriving neighborhoods, living-wage jobs, and viable economies.

Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Website.

The site provides materials/examples to help community-based practitioners design, implement, and evaluate their programs. This link will help you create logic models for your strategies.

Wolff, T. (2012) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

The Power of Collaborative Solutions: Six Principles and Effective Tools for Building Healthy Communities.

This book addresses current social problems by helping people of diverse backgrounds work together to solve community challenges. The clear principles, illustrative stories, and practical tools show how to make lasting change happen.

Work Group on Health Promotion and Community Development. University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. Community Tool Box.

This website provides practical information to support coalition work in health and development. It features sections on all phases of coalition building that include descriptions of tasks, guidelines, examples, checklists of points to review, and training materials. The vast resources of the CTB are organized by what you may want to do: How-to Guidance; Toolkits; Troubleshooting and Evidence-based Practice.