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Partnership Continuum: Integrated Partnerships

August 16, 2021

By: Greg Henson, President of Sioux Falls Seminary; Henry Tan, President of the International Leadership Consortium (ILC); and Howard Isaacson, CEO of Emmanuel Academies

As we continue looking more closely at the framework for collaboration and partnership that exists within Kairos, we turn our attention to Integrated Partnerships. An increasingly common partner in Kairos, an integrated partner leverages every aspect of Kairos while continuing to be a separate legal entity with its own governance, institutional authority, and management structures. In this post, we will provide more details about Integrated Partnerships, share a few examples, and outline how integrated partners are identified, developed, implemented, and supported.

Identification

The identification of potential integrated partners, really every type of partnership, is the same regardless of where a partner might fit within the framework. As Kairos engages in its work of stewarding followers of Jesus who flourish in their vocations, we pay close attention to schools that seem to share a common commitment to affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful theological education. Rather than actively pursuing new integrated partners, Kairos responds to opportunities and conversations that occur naturally in the course of our work. In doing so, we have learned that the primary characteristic of a potential integrated partner is a deep commitment to theological education as, first and foremost, a journey of discipleship.

In practice, this means an integrated partner is often already engaged in the work of theological education. They could be a school, a kingdom-minded ministry that has a program designed around a specific area of focus, people group, or context, or an organization looking to develop such a program or school. In most cases, a potential integrated partner is interested in collaborating with Kairos because it:

  1. Is looking for a way to offer degrees that carry North American accreditation within a particular context in which such accreditation has been inaccessible, unaffordable, or disconnected from the local church.
  2. Has a robust journey of theological education already in place and would like to leverage the benefits of a university system (e.g., robust digital library resources, technology, business process expertise, expanded educational resources, etc.)
  3. Would like to offer a new competency-based degree or ministry training program without all of the traditional costs associated with starting such a program and/or the elongated change and accreditation processes that CBTE requires.

Whatever the reason, the primary goal of an integrated partner is often to boldly pursue its mission, and it sees Kairos as a “co-worker in the vineyard” who can help. In this arrangement, the integrated partner remains an entirely separate legal entity with entirely separate governance and management. The practices, operations, systems, and processes for the shared program are identical to, and fully integrated into, Kairos as a whole.

Once a school identifies itself as potential integrated partner or responds positively to such an invitation from Kairos, the conversation moves into the development stage.

Development

As it is with all types of partnership within Kairos, the development stage is best characterized as one of mutual discernment. Conversations that take place during this stage present opportunities for Kairos and a potential integrated partner to talk more deeply about the processes, practices, and systems that will be shared. It is also a prime opportunity for Kairos to learn more about and, therefore, more deeply appreciate the unique and important mission of the integrated partner since the primary goal is for the partnership to help the integrated partner boldly pursue its mission.

In this stage, we collectively discern whether or not an Integrated Partnership is the next best step. If the potential integrated partner and Kairos both discern such a partnership is indeed the next best step, then a partnership overview document is crafted to outline the high-level aspects of the implementation process. If we mutually discern that an Integrated Partnership is not the next best step, the conversation begins to focus on other types of collaboration and partnership (e.g., Legacy, Collaborating, and Operating).

When the partnership overview document has been completed, we move into the implementation stage of the process.

Implementation

The implementation process happens in three phases:

  1. Process and Personnel Alignment – In this phase, Kairos works with a team/staff member of the integrated partner to align and build the necessary processes. We refer to this person as the “partner liaison,” and they become the primary point of contact between Kairos and the integrated partner regarding all student-related processes. In most cases, Kairos works with the integrated partner to appoint and train the partner liaison as if she or he was an extension of the Kairos team so that both Kairos and the integrated partner can learn from and enhance each other’s work.
  2. Planning and Communication – In order for the full implementation of an Integrated Partnership to go smoothly, we work together to outline how the partnership will be communicated internally and externally. Our goal is to clearly articulate the functional aspects of the partnership (i.e., how the program works, what students will experience, etc.) while also reinforcing the mission and vision of the integrated partner.
  3. Integration and Development – The final phase is where everything outlined in phases 1 and 2 is actually accomplished. As such, this phase can take place over many months or even years depending on the needs and context of a given integrated partner. Ultimately, this stage is one of ongoing iteration and improvement as the Integrated Partnership is fully implemented. Inevitability, we learn things along the way that help to make it better. This leads us to the final stage of the process.

Support

Kairos is focused on the fact the theological education is something that must happen in community because discipleship is a communal endeavor. The community in which it happens, therefore, has a profound formational impact on everyone who participates in Kairos. As a result, Kairos covenants with each integrated partner to honor its unique mission.

As a result, the support stage of Integrated Partnership is ongoing. Even after programs, processes, communication, and all of the day-to-day operations are fully integrated, support for integrated partners continues.

As a community of Jesus followers, Kairos is focused on creating a global network of theological education that is affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful. Integrated Partnerships create a strong network that can support and leaven this global network.

The current integrated partners in Kairos are the International Leadership Consortium (ILC), Emmanuel Academies, and The Coalition for the Advancement of Youth Ministry (TCYME).

Join us next week as we look at collaborating partners!

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