Communicate, Co-ordinate, Co-operate
Partnerships can be formed between a number of individuals, agencies or organisations with a shared interest. There is usually an overarching purpose for partners to work together and a range of specific objectives. Partnerships are often formed to address specific issues and may be short or long term.
Whatever the purpose, successful partnership working requires time and commitment to build a high level of trust between the partners. Sustained care and attention is also essential to maintain and nurture a thriving, productive partnership whether its objectives are strategic or operational in nature.
“Partnership working isn’t always easy: there are tensions and barriers along the way. But when everyone works together it’s like flying in formation.” – Melvin Hartley
Key principles for a successful partnership
- Openness, trust and honesty between partners
- Agreed shared goals and values
- Regular communication between partners
Partnerships can work in different ways and there is no one-size-fits-all model. However, there are a number of elements which actively facilitate successful partnership working:
- The aim of the partnership is agreed and understood by all the partners
- The partnership has clear, effective leadership
- The role of each partner is identified and clear to others in the partnership
- There is shared ownership of the partnership and partners feel there is ‘something in it for them’
- There is dedicated time and resources for the administration and operation of the partnership
- There is recognition of different organisational cultures within the partnership
- A supportive atmosphere exists within the partnership so that suggestions, ideas and conflicts can safely be addressed
Local examples of partnerships
Wealden Strategic Partnership (WSP) is a non-statutory, multi-agency body, which matches Wealden District Council boundaries, and brings together the different parts of the public, private, community and voluntary sectors.
- Working to reduce crime and the fear of crime.
- Crime Reduction Partnerships were created under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, recognising that the Police are not solely responsible for tackling all crime and disorder. A community response is key because it is important to manage the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour. This is especially true in Wealden, which has one of the lowest crime rates anywhere in the country.
- Wealden also belongs to the East Sussex Safer Communities Partnership where representatives from all the Crime Reduction partnerships across the county. Supported by the Safer Communities Team at the County Council, the Partnership identifies Countywide priorities and is able, due to economies of scale, to commission services for the benefit of all areas in the county.
East Sussex Strategic Partnership (ESSP) brings together different parts of our local community – public services, local businesses, community groups, voluntary sector organisations and local people.
It was set up in 2000 to help organisations and individuals work together in a co-ordinated way to plan local services, tackle the issues that matter to local people and improve quality of life in East Sussex.
We want to raise the quality of life for all our residents. To achieve this we aim to create and sustain:
- a vibrant, diverse and sustainable economy
- great places to live in, visit and enjoy
- safe, healthy and fulfilling lives
Partnerships in practice
Partnerships are a significant feature of public service delivery. At the last count, around 5,500 partnerships existed in the UK, accounting for some £4 billion of public expenditure.
Local partnerships are essential to deliver improvements in people’s quality of life, but:
- They bring risks as well as opportunities, and governance can be problematic.
- They may not deliver good value for public money, so local public bodies should ask searching questions about those they are engaged in.
- Clear accountability is needed between partners to produce better accountability to the public, including redress when things go wrong.
Local public bodies should be much more constructively critical about this form of working: it may not be the best solution in every case. Local public bodies should consider how partnerships add value, and who is in charge of them.
There is no one size fits all model of governing partnerships: governance arrangements should be proportionate to the risks involved. Partners must strike the right balance between the need to protect the public pound and ensure value for money, and the innovation and flexibility that can exist when organisations collaborate.