Partnership working stories
We facilitated a series of workshops which brought different partners from the Local Strategic Partnership together. The aim was to develop a programme of learning and support for people (in the different agencies and sectors) who are working around community engagement. The individuals in the room all had a remit around training or learning in their organisations.
We started by looking at what each individual – and then – each organisation brought to this particular grouping. We wanted to look at establishing a set of values for the group – because we believed that these would underpin and provide a basis for the work. Some members of the group were keen to start looking at tasks and it was important to get their buy-in to considering values as a starting point for programme development so we began by asking people why values matter, their responses were very useful for moving forwards, for example, values:
- are about the things that are important to us
- are what we believe in
- guide how we act
- can determine which direction we go in
- help with group cohesion – if we value similar things
- widen horizons
- give us a better understanding
- provoke healthy debate
One member of the group was concerned throughout that she would leave the session with a lot of tasks to do, by the end of the session she could see that this ‘partnership approach, which she had heard about before but not experienced personally, led to a sharing of responsibility across agencies rather than a focus on passing tasks to individuals.
The evolving learning and support programme reflects the nature of the partners engaged in its development. It makes clear reference to competencies used by different agencies, links to existing initiatives, draws on the expertise of different partners and has partnership at its core – in development and implementation.
The following gives a flavour of potential ‘issues’ around the experience of ‘partnerships’ and partnership working derived from our research:
- Recognising power imbalance – within the partnership (in the room) – within and between sectors
- ‘Voluntary’ versus ‘forced’ partnerships – motivations and roles
- Identifying what the partnership is trying to achieve, how that can happen and type of partnership
- Individual organisations following their own agendas
- How we reach consensus and make decisions
- Who is coming to the partnership – and who we need to attend to make sure it is appropriate and effective
- What are the parameters of influence – what can people change and what is and isn’t negotiable?
- What is the status of the decisions made at the meetings
- Style of meetings – how they are conducted, access and inclusion
- Levels of capacity … organisations need to be able to determine their own capacity to work in partnership – what do they need and have they got it
- Representation and accountability
- Recognising, supporting and promoting the independence of the VCS in terms of it being able to challenge policy … irrespective of any funding arrangements
- Does the partnership recognise that discrimination exists?
- Does the partnership promote equality of opportunity?
- Does the partnership promote good relations between groups?
- Does the partnership recognise the needs of men and women equally?