Paul Vallee is managing director of the BestCities Global Alliance. He is responsible for the successful delivery of the alliance’s strategic plan, performance monitoring and overseeing its operations. Here he speaks on the growing trend for partnerships in associations and how the industry can benefit from collaboration.
Why are partnerships so important?
The beauty of a partnership, to me, is working together to complement one another and to build something creative and fresh that one may not have otherwise been able to do. That’s the primary advantage and the purpose of partnering. BestCities as an alliance has built its foundations on partnerships and works to help destinations and associations identify partnerships that would work for them.
How can an organisation find the right partner for them?
You have to consider your association’s needs and areas of strength, using that as a basis to define where the best fit lies. What is it that will make you as an organisation prosper? The best way to identify a suitable partner is to find those who are complimentary to what it is you are doing. It’s not about the similarities, it’s the differences that organisations may have that can make the partnership flourish – meaning that even the more unconventional pairings shouldn’t be ruled out when considering a partnership.
When an association is considering a partnership, they need to find a party that are willing to put in an equal amount of effort which takes shape in various forms, from money, to time, resource, knowledge and man power.
What are the key benefits of a partnership?
The key elements where partnerships can benefit an organisation are, like anything in business, improving the bottom line, whether it’s financial or otherwise, increasing sales and enhancing reputation.
What’s an example of an effective partnership that you have observed?
One that I have overseen and have been closest to would be between BestCities and ICCA, because while we exist in the same sphere, we are not exactly the same. We work together with ICCA on various programmes that give back to the industry, such as the recognition programme and Incredible Impacts. We’re a business and a global alliance, whereas they are an association that works in education and holding conferences. They offer areas of skills and expertise that we don’t have and vice versa.
Are there common challenges that associations would need to overcome in partnerships?
There are definitely challenges that can arise when establishing a partnership. One thing to consider is that ‘no partner is more important that the other’. Regardless of the scale of the organisation, its key to avoid a hierarchal partnership, as each organisation involved should be bringing an equal amount of value to the collaboration.
Another potential challenge is being able to agree upon and streamline the common goal and objective to work towards. You’ve got to be tolerant, you’ve got to be flexible, you’ve got to trust one another and recognise that each partner has strengths and weaknesses – understanding and overcoming cultural or operational differences.
Where do you see the future of collaboration and partnership with associations going and BestCities’ role within that?
When associations and destinations find common ground, great things can happen. For example, an association that specialises in the eradication of a disease will find common ground from destinations that wants to improve the health of the citizens. Or for instance, an association whose purpose is to reduce child poverty is really no different to a destination who wants to see their young people survive and thrive.
What we’re moving towards is associations taking advantage of the benefits of collaboration and partnership in refreshing new ways, using these to extend offers and working towards a better future that benefits all. That’s a partnership to me.
How does BestCities decide on which destinations to join its partnership?
There are key criteria for the Alliance when considering new destinations joining the partnership. Among many things, we consider destinations that have demonstrated leadership in working towards joint goals, being accountable for results, having open and honest communications and thinking long term.
We look for partners that demonstrate a track record in partnering and collaboration, with a compelling reputation, which adds value to the Alliance through everything from cultural diversity, geographic balance and client reach.