What is a Partnership Specialist?

October 18, 2022 3 minute read

Partnership Specialist

Last month, Resonance Senior Associate for Partnership and Private Sector Engagement Cara Hayes wrote an Insights piece on the most important questions to ask potential candidates when hiring a Partnership Specialist.

That piece was widely shared across socials, with many people from an array of organizations engaging in comments, likely given the growing number of companies creating and filling positions under the “partnership” banner.

One comment included accolades for the advice, followed by “Is this what we are calling this role?” accompanied by the poster’s tag of their fellow colleague.

A Partnership Specialist By Any Other Name Is…

A Partnership Manager. A Partnership Strategist. A CSR Leader.

There are a variety of titles for this varied role, but they are all by design leading, managing, or a tour de force member of teams charged with designing collaborations and partnerships internally and externally in the face of breakpoint change.

Given specific organizational goals, directives, and commitments, these roles include forging innovative partnerships with other companies and local businesses, trade and professional organizations, NGOs, funding entities, research groups and universities, local communities, governments and agencies, suppliers, customers, and an array of other stakeholders. Wow. That's a lot of potential partners. 

It’s important to distinguish here that partnership development in this context is not focused on traditional business functions associated with engaging partners who can provide beneficial goods and services or maintaining business client relationships. 

Rather, we are discussing the roles and functions of partnership specialists engaged in the Impact Sector – those tasked with looking for opportunities to collaborate with partners to reach targets and goals that have social, environmental, and sustainable impact.

According to Shannon Houde, career coach in the impact sector and whose new book, “Good Work: How to Build a Career that Makes a Difference in the World,” we featured in our recent Insights,  these types of roles are diverse, creative, and growing.

Varied Roles And Functions Of Partnership Specialists

If today’s Insights timestamp is a snapshot of the occupational outlook for ‘partnership specialist’ roles as defined in the context of this discussion, the profession is promising.

  • For example, Google is currently hiring a Director, Sustainability Engagement and Partnerships. The company is seeking ideal candidates with 15 years of experience in sustainability engagement, developing and leading global sustainability partnerships, coalitions. Specific responsibilities include “developing and managing partnership dimensions” of regional sustainability strategies across Latin America, and “working with cross-functional teams to drive governance and decision making around external partnerships and coalitions,” among other tasks of the role.
  • Cadence Systems, a software systems development firm based in San Jose, CA is seeking a Director, Global Social Impact, with a significant focus on “understanding the landscape of “impact design” entities (nonprofit organizations, social enterprises, funders, universities) and identifying priority organizations with whom to partner” to achieve social impact.
  • The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. is currently seeking candidates to fill the position of Director, Social Impact – La Mer, a wholly cross-functional lead also engaged in partnership development and management focused on ocean conservation initiatives for the brand. According to the listing, this person should have experience in the social impact space- working with donors/partners/nonprofit organizations to implement work for social impact initiatives. In addition to driving social impact, the "Director will work with the Sustainability task force to deliver innovation to make a positive impact to communities, organizations, and impacted stakeholders throughout our value chain."

These are but a few roles that either focus wholly, or as one component of the role, on partnership development, nurturing, and management for social and sustainable impact.

Resonance also fills a number of positions related to partnership management and strategy given our track record in designing and implementing collaborative, cross-sector partnerships.  

How To Partner With Purpose

As companies tackle pressing challenges related to climate change, ESG, Scope Emissions reductions, UNSDGs and other sustainability undertakings, most recognize they cannot do it alone, especially regarding the complexities of challenges upstream and downstream in their supply and value chains. Pre-Competitive and Cross-Sector partnerships are among the most promising approaches.

Resonance founder Steve Schmida wrote the book on partnerships, focusing not only on why partnerships and collaboration are necessary, but citing specific case examples detailing the ways partnerships can achieve greater impact for all partners involved.

He also dedicates an entire chapter to the roles of partnership specialists on collaborative teams and requisite soft skills that make a difference in partnership outcomes. Regardless of the official position title, professions engaging in partnership development and execution in the social and sustainable impact space are valuable changemakers in organizations.

That’s why attracting the best Partnership Specialist to your team is of critical importance in the coming years.

And yes; those interview questions Cara outlined? Those will go a long way in helping you attract the ideal candidates to those roles.

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If you are a corporate leader and would like to be a part of a discussion about these and other issues in the presidential transition, contact Resonance Strategic Partnerships Manager, Seth Olson.