by Ed Noot, SCSBC Executive Director ◊
Schools can exist in a state of relative isolation. Although many Christian schools tout a strong connection to church and home, an honest assessment may show that meaningful contact is somewhat limited. Beyond church and home, schools often have a very limited connection with other organizations.
Organizational management studies have decried the effect of silos within organizations. Silos make perfect sense for the farmer who does not wish to mix the various grain products on the farm but in an organization they can be crippling.
The Silo Mentality as defined by the Business Dictionary is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce efficiency in the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.1
We can also slide into a pattern of operating a silo-like school. Perhaps communication within the organization is excellent, but what about inter-organizational communication? Could the school benefit from additional connections with other schools and other organizations?
Strategic partnerships are formal or informal relationships or agreements that allow organizations to interact in a new, creative and mutually beneficial manner. A successful strategic partnership is truly a win-win.2 Strategic partnership can move organizations from mutual exclusivity or even competition to cooperation.
In order to achieve strategic partnerships, organizations need to see a distinct benefit and must be willing to pay whatever price is required in fees, goods, services, time, resources or intellectual property. Sometimes strategic partnerships are based on an exchange of goods or services rather than cash.
SCSBC has recently entered into a number of significant strategic partnerships. In one agreement, we partner with the Prairie Center for Christian Education (PCCE) to allow Teaching for Transformation to be offered to member schools as an SCSBC service. This agreement increased the scope of TfT training in BC, and reduced the cost of TfT to SCSBC member schools. PCCE gained a measure of recompense for their investment in developing TfT and freed up their main TfT trainers to conduct training in the growing market among American Christian schools.
SCSBC has also entered into a strategic partnership with School District #33 (Chilliwack) and the Fraser Valley Distance Education School (FVDES) to encourage the enrolment of SCSBC and other independent school students into the FVDES work experience and apprenticeship courses. Through this agreement, more students have access to work experience and apprenticeship courses, FVDES gains the opportunity to serve independent schools, participating schools receive a portion of per-course funding for partnering with FVDES, and SCSBC gains external revenue to cover the cost of our work experience consultant thereby offering an additional service to member schools.
Another example of SCSBC’s work in developing strategic partnerships is our informal agreement with ACSI which allows schools to be members of both organizations. Each of the two organizations now offers a slight membership fee reduction to accommodate any school that see value in belonging to both SCSBC and ACSI. This partnership arrangement reduces any perceived competition and allows for a more collaborative spirit to emerge and prevail.
Look around your community. Where do you see opportunities for your school to engage in strategic partnerships?
School A is a dwindling elementary school with limited opportunities for growth. They are having a hard time attracting committed teachers and leaders to their community. School B is located in a community 25 kilometres away. They are bursting at the seams at the elementary level but face high student attrition into high school. They are exploring starting a DL school to increase the flexibility of their program offerings. School A and B connect in a strategic partnership that sees School B provide administrative leadership and oversight while School A enrolls students in the DL program offered by School B. The schools work together to support and enhance one another.
School C is located in an urban center with a nearby a conservation area. The municipality is challenged to find the tax dollars to maintain the trail system. The school and conservation center form a strategic partnership that allows teachers and students to access the area for science trips, explorations and experiments and in turn the school maintains the area trail system. Some of this work is accomplished via classes studying design and building, and some is completed by a voluntary extra-curricular club.
School D has a thriving fine arts program, but limited space for instruction and performance. The local movie theater is threatening to close due to patrons flocking to new theaters on the outskirts of town. The school and theater form a strategic partnership that allows the school to use the theater as a teaching space during the day in exchange for students helping to run the show on weekends when the theater will play classics, foreign films and second run movies at reduced rates. The students “earn” some income to support their school’s acquisition of capital items and to help pay for extended tours.
What are the opportunities in your community? Break out of your silo and look around your community to see potential strategic partnerships that can be formed to mutual advantage. In addition to any specific benefit your school receives, you will enjoy the added value of raising your school’s profile and of contributing the good of your broader community.