Partnerships and networks in work with young people
Partnerships and networks can emerge at a number of levels. For example, the initial contact which leads to partnership might come from young people themselves talking about their needs and interests and feeding these back to workers. It might also come from conversations between workers at inter-agency training sessions or conferences, where shared interests are identified and an exchange of ideas and information can enrich the practice of both. This in itself would be a positive outcome of networking, but if taken further it might lead to a more formal partnership between organisations. So working in partnership can be small-scale, local and temporary, and it can also involve formal arrangements between one or more organisations working together across regional boundaries over a period of time.
You will probably be aware from your own experience of practice, as well as from your reading, that there is a significant emphasis on partnership working in current debates and discussions about practice in work with young people.
As Howard Sercombe comments:
Internationally, there has been increasing pressure for different professions to work together. This [is] a good thing: young people deserve to have the best expertise available when they need it, and youth workers need to be well connected and skilled at making the right referral and in working together on issues with other professionals …
Partnership and collaboration has developed as a core practice criterion in youth policy over the last decade … It isn’t just in youth work either: collaboration is also in fashion internationally, with schools, universities, government departments and even private businesses needing to demonstrate that they are working with other people.
The LEAP framework for project planning also emphasises the importance of partnership as one of its five principles for project working (The Scottish Government, 2007).
In this course you will be examining the range of issues that partnership working presents for practitioners working with young people. You will also be considering ways in which you can approach developing partnerships in your own practice, particularly in the context of your project.
We begin by examining the term ‘partnership working’ and other terminology that is used to describe the ways in which different organisations and practitioners from different agencies work together.
We then move on to consider the different levels at which partnership working might operate and the policy context in which partnership working has developed. We invite you to think about the benefits – as well as the potential challenges and dilemmas – that working in partnership can bring. You will be building on your previous learning about the nature of leadership and of organisations as you explore the issues that arise when people from different organisations – with their different structures and cultures – try to work together.
Finally, we look at ways in which you can develop your own professional practice in these areas of work and ‘make partnerships work’, including as you begin to undertake your project.
Partnership working takes effort. It is complex and demanding and can be slow and frustrating. However, it also has the potential to be a positive and exciting area of professional practice, challenging the way you think and allowing you to learn from being exposed to different ways of working and different professional perspectives. Michael Bracey, for example, reflects on how partnership working has given him opportunities to be part of creating real change for young people, and provided him with some of the most significant developmental opportunities in his career as a youth worker:
Partnerships can provide a way through bureaucracy to a place where people can really be visionary. They can provide a laboratory for new ideas, a place where risk taking is acceptable and where alternative ways of working can be explored.
Bracey is writing from a particular perspective, as someone who has a senior role in a local authority service. Your own view of partnerships on the ground may be less rosy, and you might be much more sceptical. Nevertheless, we hope that studying this course encourages you to find opportunities to be creative in partnerships, to make them fit with the way you work and, above all, to continue to focus on ways in which outcomes and opportunities for young people can be improved as a result of the work that you do in partnership with others.
This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course.