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Neil King's 10 Best Thoughts for Establishing & Maintaining Partnerships

Superintendent Neil King
Formerly the Superintendent of Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and Minidoka Internment National Monument, Neil King instigated and gotten work done through partnerships during his 35 years experience with the National Park Service. His special interest was in developing and facilitating processes to avoid gridlock and conflict through meaningful public participation. He was also active in several non-profit organizations that strive to balance protection and use of our natural and cultural resources.

At a Western States Tourism Policy Conference, Neil convened a panel of seven of his key community partner organizations working in support of Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument.

His staff at Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument partnered with scientists from the Smithsonian Institution and other organizations throughout the United States and Canada to help rescue fossils from Hagerman Horse Quarry and the threat of a landslide.

Since the establishment of the Minidoka Internment National Monument in 2001, Neil and his staff collaborated with numerous partnerships to ensure the legacy of the Japanese American experience, including work with the Japanese American Citizens League, Nisei Veterans Committee, the Wing Luke Museum, and Friends of Minidoka to host annual pilgrimages to Minidoka Internment National Monument. And as part of the Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project, park staff is compiling oral histories of Japanese Americans who were interned.

The park also worked with the community to preserve the significant remaining components of the Relocation Center that are located on private property surrounding the Monument and to provide visitor services.

Neil provides the following advice on what makes a partnership succeed:

  1. Define "Partnership" as it relates to your organization or a specific project. Prepare a brief statement that describes and characterizes the desired relationship, rather than the goal, or product. Not all who want to help you should necessarily be qualified as a "partner". The relationship is more important than the "label".

  2. Profile the capabilities and capacities that a successful partner needs to embody.

  3. Recognize that a partnership is a relationship. It is living, and under the best conditions will evolve and grow. Keep it dynamic - if it becomes static it will likely not survive.

  4. A partnership must be based on equality and trust. Equality is a matter of setting up an organizational structure and the behaviors that follow. Trust is something that develops over time through experiences.

  5. Partnerships are not about money! They must be compatible in that they allow partners to achieve and maintain their core values and mission focus. Core values and mission zeal must be a mutual fit to achieve long term success.

  6. Each partner must receive fair (not necessarily equal) value for their effort/contribution.

  7. Any given Partnership should support the goals of your organization, but they should never be essential to maintain the sustainability of your intrinsic values and organizational identity.

  8. Partnerships can expand and contract, depending on projects and goals, as well as the health of the entities. When they contract, they may assume a lesser role as a stakeholder or just cheerleading. Keep them engaged, but recognize that their role has changed, even if only temporarily.

  9. Develop a mission statement for the partnership that is a declaration of pride for both entities.

  10. Few, if any, partnerships will be systemic for NPS purposes. Our goals and missions are too broad and diverse. Identify partnerships that can contribute with specificity and measurability, at least initially.

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