Partnerships and networks in work with young people
Partnerships and networks in work with young people

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Partnerships and networks in work with young people

1.4 Levels of partnership

As we have seen, partnership working can involve different levels of formality and commitment, from work based on quite loose and informal networks at one end of the spectrum, through to working arrangements based on formal agreements and organisational structures at the other. Himmelman (1996) has developed a model of partnership that he uses to explore these different levels of commitment, which he sees as a continuum. In Figure 7.1 we illustrate his model using the idea of a series of levels.

Described image
Figure 1: Levels of partnership (Source: adapted from Himmelman, 1996)

Networking is the most informal level of partnership working and involves exchanging information for mutual benefit. There needs to be a minimal level of trust and willingness to share information, and the contacts are usually made informally, person to person rather than organisation to organisation.

Himmelman highlights the importance of this person-to-person contact in networking, pointing out that, ‘it is clearly more helpful to be able to have a contact person through whom you can get the information required and, as necessary, have a continuing dialogue of mutual benefit’ (Himmelman, 1996, p. 27).

Coordination goes a step further. As well as exchanging information for mutual benefit, the partners agree to alter their activities or ways of working in order to achieve a common purpose. Coordination can help to address problems of fragmentation, overlap and duplication in services. For example, Sabrina might identify, though her conversations with other organisations, that they are each offering similar provision for young people on the same night of the week. As a result of exchanging information, they might decide to open on different nights, or arrange to diversify and complement each other in order to give young people a wider range of options.

Cooperation moves the partners up a step. In addition to exchanging information and coordinating activities for mutual benefit and to achieve a common purpose, organisations might share resources – including money, staffing and buildings.

At the top of the staircase, at the level of collaboration, the step of enhancing each other’s capacity for mutual benefit is added to the earlier ones. At this level, each person or organisation works at helping their partners to become better at what they do. Mick’s advocacy work might come into this category. Thinking of the needs of others, as well as one’s own self-advancement, is generally considered to be a sign of maturity (Himmelman, 1996) – hence the placement of this form of partnership at the top of the staircase, subsuming the other activities of networking, coordination and cooperation.

Himmelman (1996) argues that any of the four levels of partnership might be appropriate in different circumstances. He offers three key factors that influence the decision, the three Ts of: Time (how much is available), Trust (how well the people involved know and trust each other) and Turf (how high is the potential for turf wars, based on different values and purposes, readiness for power sharing, cultural differences, and so on).

Activity 3: Levels of partnership in practice

Timing: Allow approximately 30 minutes

Look at the video, ‘Planning inter-agency work’, below. It shows practitioners from two organisations in London meeting to discuss how they might work together.

As you watch, make notes on the following points:

  1. Why have the two agencies decided to work together?
  2. What do they want to achieve? Have they any common goals?
  3. What different knowledge and skills can each organisation contribute?
  4. What resources have they agreed to share?
  5. What other practicalities need to be agreed?
  6. At what level of partnership are they operating?
Download this video clip.Video player: Wandsworth Youth Service: Planning inter-agency work
Skip transcript: Wandsworth Youth Service: Planning inter-agency work

Transcript: Wandsworth Youth Service: Planning inter-agency work

GILLIAN THOMAS: I'm hoping Junior has got some more ideas in what we can with them if we do it.

JUNIOR NELSON: Charline could possibly look at getting some video footage we've done, especially addressing the antisocial behaviour.

CHARLINE KING: Is it young people that you know of on the estate that we're going to, or is it just going to be handed out?

GILLIAN THOMAS: Could Shaquille do the leaflet and liaise with Charline? I will speak to Takeesh, All right. So first of all, I've got Tooting Grove. So if you tell me what you know.

JUNIOR NELSON: I know through the Housing Department and Vickie, because they're forwarding all the young people's names through they have problems with. They've come up with two names at the minute, two for antisocial behaviour. I think one's possibly, ASBO, they're looking at one-day ABC. The two young people that we know that attend our provision, so we need to really...

GILLIAN THOMAS: ... So you know these two young people?


GILLIAN THOMAS: Do they actually live on Tooting Grove?


GILLIAN THOMAS: Do you know if they go to the Tooting Grove Youth Club?

JUNIOR NELSON: I know one them definitely does.

GILLIAN THOMAS: Go to the youth club?


GILLIAN THOMAS: OK. So what could we do?

JUNIOR NELSON: I know holiday's just gone. We had some of them through at our place, and even though they were too old, because they wanted to record some stuff in the studio. So if Takeesh was around, we could possibly bring some music equipment, for them record some stuff.

GILLIAN THOMAS: At the club?


GILLIAN THOMAS: So are you saying then that maybe at Easter, if I try and get ahold of the people who hire out the building, we could do a day or two that, what would you like?

JUNIOR NELSON: Definitely...

GILLIAN THOMAS: ... Because I think they would like that, because I spoke to them not long ago. We had some parents in, and then I spoke to them in the evening, and music is one of the things they want to do.

JUNIOR NELSON: Because a couple of them have got a couple of groups, so they've got their songs already done. They just wanted them mastered, so.

GILLIAN THOMAS: I mean, I wouldn't mind at all paying for something to go on down this. Do you remember the thing we did at the triangle [INAUDIBLE] about a year ago? Why don't we go for something like that, where we do about three, four days?

JUNIOR NELSON: Yeah, and we'd have to split the days...

GILLIAN THOMAS: ... And Charline, you can be in charge of that.

JUNIOR NELSON: We'll have to split the days up, because if they're recording, then that's going to wholly specifically mean that group there at that time.

GILLIAN THOMAS: That's what I'm saying. For the Easter, I don't mind just going with a small project, just the music.

JUNIOR NELSON: Yeah. That's not a problem. We could do music and video, because I know Charline's around.

GILLIAN THOMAS: OK, so music and video. Charline will be your person that's going to be working down there. What do you need from me for that?

JUNIOR NELSON: In terms of equipment, we've actually got the equipment.

GILLIAN THOMAS: You've got all the equipment?


GILLIAN THOMAS: So equipment will come from you. Apart from Charline, do you need any other staff?

JUNIOR NELSON: Yeah, we probably need staff, because it's kind of labour intensive.

GILLIAN THOMAS: OK, how many young people do you want to work with?

JUNIOR NELSON: Specifically on the music at one time, you don't really need more than eight.

GILLIAN THOMAS: So about eight young people.

JUNIOR NELSON: But we can split the music, and they've got the football pen outside. Charline could possibly look at getting some video footage we've done, especially addressing the antisocial behaviour, or maybe do a small little video, Walk around the estate, and film the video of the estate, and that can lead into talking about acceptable behaviour.

GILLIAN THOMAS: You've got your people that's going to be doing the video, the whatever. What I would like to do is I would like to ask Takeesh if she could work.

JUNIOR NELSON: Yeah, she would be one of the workers I'd like, because she's got experience with...

GILLIAN THOMAS: I find that what happens is like during the holidays, Takeesh is not able to work. I mean, that's my, that's in the past, what's been happening. So I'll ask Takeesh if she can work. If she can't work, you've got Charline. Do you need another worker or so? What do you want?

JUNIOR NELSON: If so, we probably would need another worker, because you can have a worker specifically doing music.

GILLIAN THOMAS: OK. Who's paying for the, for your workers?


GILLIAN THOMAS: OK, so you're paying for your workers, and you want two workers from me, yeah?


GILLIAN THOMAS: So Charline, that would be you and somebody else. Maybe we could look at a male worker.

JUNIOR NELSON: Because we'll have, I'll have workers actually floating, doing other stuff, as well. What I'll also do is double-check with housing, to see if there's any more names have come through the last list that we need to catch up with.

GILLIAN THOMAS: OK. It's kind of a new territory to, to be starting down. This is the first time we are going to be, it's something on there apart from the day, so should we do this one first, and then see how it goes, evaluate that?

From that, we can kind of get an idea of the needs. If we, Charline, maybe you could use one of the questionnaires with the young people down there at that point, seeing what they would like, as well, so we have an idea what they would want. And we could do something ongoing, rather than just go down there once, do something, and come out again.

JUNIOR NELSON: Yeah. I think also trying to sort some kind of holiday... it's like a spin off from Asian vibes. There's a particular group of young Asian males that are sort of like known for getting into bits of problems in the community. We're trying to set up a men's only session for them.

GILLIAN THOMAS: There's a guy called Haruf, and Haruf works, say, on Sundays in Graveney Madrasah. Haruf also work in South London, South Thames College in Wandsworth. And Haruf works with some boys, some Asian boys, in the Tooting area that's into drugs and crime, and all kinds of things, boys of that age, 11 to 19.

And Haruf has always been looking for somebody to work with in youth work, or YIP or YOT, or somebody with these young people. That's a group that we can fund through PAYP, because these boys fall into that. So if I, I could give you Haruf's number, and you could get in touch with him. He would be a good person to get in touch with.

It was good, because what I really wanted, although I had about five agenda points, I really wanted to get something going in the Tooting Grove area. And Junior, most of the young people down there, Junior and his workers know them, because they work with them in sports. So getting Junior on board with me with that was going to be crucial in the young people attending.

So yeah, it's brilliant. It's brilliant that he's come along, and he's agreed to do this project with me, and it's not going to be just a one-off project. We're going to try and continue it as long as. But we're just going to do this first one, and evaluate it, and see what happens. So yeah, I got a result.

End transcript: Wandsworth Youth Service: Planning inter-agency work
Wandsworth Youth Service: Planning inter-agency work
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Gillian, Charline and Junior are meeting to discuss how they might work together in response to concerns about young people ‘hanging about in the streets’. By working together, they believe they can provide young people with something more positive to do. Each agency already has a relationship with at least some of the young people mentioned and it makes sense to try to work together in order to develop a shared response to needs.

They know, through their contacts with young people and with parents, that the young people are interested in music. They each have resources and skills to bring to the project, including access to recording equipment, premises and staff, and they each agree to make some contribution, including paying for additional staffing. This will be a pilot project, which they plan to evaluate as the basis for developing longer-term work together. They also discuss another potential piece of joint work, specifically targeting Asian young men who are ‘known for getting into bits of problems in the community’.

They mention a number of other agencies which might play a role in supporting young people and with whom they have contacts. These include the housing department, the further education college and a faith-based organisation, as well as relationships that they have with parents and ‘the community’.

After their meeting, Gillian reflects that she achieved what she wanted – ‘getting Junior on board’. She recognises that Junior will bring skills, contacts and resources that can help her to achieve more than she could just by working on her own. We can assume that Junior also sees benefits for himself, and for the young people he works with, as a result of developing joint projects with the youth service.

We suggest that the two organisations are beginning to work on the cooperation step – exchanging information and also planning to change their activities and to share resources (at least for the duration of this pilot project) in order to achieve mutual benefit for each organisation. They agree to evaluate the project afterwards. The outcome of this is likely to determine whether they continue to cooperate and share resources, or whether they go back down a step.


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