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Working in the voluntary sector
Working in the voluntary sector

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4.1 Why do organisations work in partnership?

The main reason organisations work together is similar to the reasons for creating any team, i.e. that more can be achieved together than individually. This is what Huxham and Vangen (2005) termed collaborative advantage in the partnership context.

However, they also talk about collaborative inertia, where the group’s work slows down more than expected. This is usually because the partnership has not maintained a clear focus on the potential results and has failed to develop a clear vision or to create trust between group members. Organisations may have pursued their own agenda rather than what is best for the partnership.

Working in a multi-organisational team can be difficult: conflict and competition between organisations can persist, and some individuals and organisations may feel their role is not equal to those of other team members.

When it works well, however, partnerships between organisations could include the following benefits:

  • developing a shared vision and aims and objectives, in order to deliver an integrated strategy or services better able to meet the needs of service users
  • involving a wider range of people and organisations in decision making to ensure a more participative way of working
  • improving communication between organisations
  • pooling resources such as funding, staffing, equipment, office space, training
  • sharing expertise from organisations and individuals working in a similar field
  • enabling staff and volunteers from different organisations to encounter different organisational cultures and ways of working, share good practice, and to learn from the experience.
(Charlesworth, 2013, p. 196)

Activity 5 Thinking about partnership working

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

Choose an organisation you know well and think about a project where the organisation could work in partnership.

  1. Who would be the partners?
  2. What would be the purpose (goal) of the partnership?
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This activity might have got you thinking about areas of work in your organisation where working with others could improve what you do by bringing in other expertise, pooling resources, or sharing thoughts and ideas instead of working alone. In terms of other partners, you might have thought about other voluntary organisations, the local authority or a local business.

It is useful to think about the purpose or goal of the partnership in terms of outcomes and what difference the partnership will make. For example, the partnership could be formed to run a successful community event, to refurbish a building, to provide a new service for older people or to provide a more comprehensive advice service for carers of patients with dementia.

Using the following questions to help you think in this way will also help to focus the partnership and its meetings:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What do you need to get there?
  • What can each partner bring to the team?