Posted by Ali Alsaraf
The current financial climate and the challenges faced by the public and community sectors are imposing on us the concept of partnership working. The concept is undoubtedly great, but it should not be imposed, it must be developed; it’s a process.
A community often shares a place, values and possibly a vision for its locality. So working in partnership can only make sense, but, what does it mean? How does it works, and how is it governed? Partnership working is becoming a buzz phrase but is it a meaningless cliché? In some cases the bridge between the community and the public sector is damaged, and they may experience miscommunication, lack of transparency, lack of a common dream, resulting in mistrust.
It’s important that we understand the true meaning of partnership working. For partnership working to be successfully embedded in the public sector there need to be a set of conditions.
For a community to understand its responsibilities and rights it needs to be informed; it’s a basic rule of democracy. Social connectivity is key for communities and organisations to form a long lasting partnership.
The first step to getting a community engaged is to get its residents informed about what’s going, and informing them on how and where they can be involved. A well connected, social community is an empowered one, in the sense that people in the community would know where to seek help, and those with the ability are willing to help and support others. They would also be able to identify those people who needs their help and support.
For an organisation, social connectivity is essential. It encourages collaborations and local conversations which could lead to sustainable partnership working. Without knowing what is going on locally, organisations duplicate each other’s work with no adequate local insight. Therefore, organisations may miss the whole picture, and waste scarce resources because their work is not evidence based.
Many social issues and community concerns need to be tackled using a multi-agency approach. This can only happen if people within organisations and communities are connected and have a shared platform of communication.
Trust between partners:
To put it simply, Partnership working does not mean passing the buck.
Potential partners must not feel that they are being used or taken advantage of. Partnership working is not about who does less and who does more. Any organisation looking to work in partnership with another should always have an answer for the “what’s in it for me?” question. Start by establishing a mutual benefits agreement is a motivational factor for the potential partners. This should send a signal that we are mindful of the mutual challenges and recognise the need for each other’s support.
With this approach and mind set, people in organisations and communities will look out for each other because they understand they are in it together.
Start with definitions. It’s always useful to know what it means.
Local authorities across the country are now actively looking for ways to partner with local organisations and community champions. However, not many have actually defined their people centred vision, what a local organisation is or what is meant by a community champion.
Partnership can be formed for the delivery of one project or can be formed to accommodate a long term strategy, which is yours? Defining what a partnership is for you, communicate this and seek a mutual agreement about it between the potential partners. Then define who is who in this partnership? What are the scope of your partnership work? How to grow and who is set to steer this partnership?
Define the partnership vision, a shared vision. Your partnership vision should not be about saving resources, it must be about achieving something for the people. It’s all about people, after all organisations don’t build partnerships, people do.
The Partnership’s growth can be facilitated by connecting and informing the people, creating an inclusive platform for them to talk about their concerns and dreams. Partnership cannot be forced out of a desire to save resources, it need to be developed with passion and people in heart.