Network Innovation Spotlight / January 27, 2021

Expanding Audiences Through Community Partnerships

As the pandemic set in and in-person networking opportunities became impossible, Citizen Diplomacy International decided to launch a new virtual programming series that would engage our local community and expand our audience.

We collaborated with the Consular Corps Association of Philadelphia (CCAP) to involve them in our weekly virtual conversation series, Diplomacy and Dialogue. Our organization provided the platform, programmatic model, marketing, events management, and technical zoom skills. In return, we featured CCAP membership speakers monthly, introducing CCAP’s extensive network to our organization, raising awareness of the importance of international exchange and keeping citizen diplomats actively engaged.

The process we went through to establish the Diplomacy and Dialogue series can serve as a guide for CBMs interested in community collaborations. We engaged 660 people, approximately 50 of them international, in virtual public programs between April and December 2020. Excluding program alumni, approximately 75 percent of participants were not previously on our email list.

We found expanding our reach challenging during COVID-19, so we leveraged our partnership with a similarly minded organization to reach new audiences generally familiar and engaged with the international affairs field. Our relationship with CCAP started several years ago, when some members volunteered to host International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) participants for dinner. It formalized last year when we started supporting their administrative office procedures.

Once your organization has identified a partnering organization, work with your whole team to develop a plan for the ideal partnership. Formulate your pitch by asking yourselves: What needs are you filling for yourself and this community? What are the possible programmatic outcomes that you are both working on? Will this community have a position on your board or advisory group?

Identify the leaders who can solidify the partnership and encourage participation of new audiences. Making inroads with a new community is easiest when you have someone who is personally involved to guide you and make introductions. For our CCAP relationship this was the President, who previously volunteered to host international guests for Citizen Diplomacy.

Once you get the partnering organization on board, start collaborating. Don’t allow yourself too much time— short timelines can spur innovation and not every decision needs to be made before you launch. Instead of finalizing events from the beginning, focus on how to keep people contributing and participating throughout and leave the door open for the series to evolve and get better. Having a framework for multiple opportunities over a twelve-month period lays the groundwork for sustained community involvement.

Some final tips:

  • Partnering organizations should hold each other as equals.
  • Each organization should be contributing their strengths.
  • Identify what the expectations are for each organization programmatically and in marketing.
  • Set time aside to evaluate the return on investment for both organizations every few months, so you can adjust if needed.