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Collaborative problem solving for community safety
Collaborative problem solving for community safety

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4 Working with partner services and groups

4.1 What do we mean by ‘working in partnership’?

It is particularly important to develop good, ongoing communications with public services stakeholders – in policing, health, education, social care and local government for example – and voluntary organisations, from churches to neighbourhood action groups, who help get things done in the community. The phrase ‘partnership working’ is used to describe a wide range of arrangements and ways of working, from informal networking between individuals, to formally contracted service partnerships which benefit communities in a variety of ways.

Vipin Chauhan, writing about partnership working in the context of the voluntary and community sector, comments that:

Increasingly, voluntary, community and public sector organisations are caught up in this frenzy about ‘partnership’, ‘multi-agency’, ‘inter-professional’ and ‘inter-agency’ working. Such terms are used almost daily without paying much attention to what they mean in reality …

(Chauhan, 2007, p. 233)

In some cases, people have specific ideas about the differences between these different terms. For example:

  • Inter-agency working usually refers to arrangements between two or more agencies for planning, implementing and evaluating joint projects or longer pieces of joint working.
  • Multi-agency working refers to representatives from a number of agencies coming together to look at a problem in a holistic way.
  • Multi-disciplinary working refers to teams made up of people from a range of professional backgrounds.

For the purposes of this course, we have defined partnership working as: two or more parties working together towards a common goal, to provide a coordinated response to the needs of the community in a way that attempts to overcome boundaries between services.

Different types of partnerships exist. They may be based on:

  • The themes and issues they are addressing and in their breadth of focus – from partnerships with a very specific focus, for example drugs and substance misuse, through to partnerships addressing a much broader set of issues, for example regenerating a town or an estate.
  • The range and nature of the partners involved, including whether they involve statutory, voluntary/third-sector and/or private sector organisations and whether other community representatives are also involved.
  • The time span – they may be focused on one-off, short-term projects, or develop into longer-term plans for working together.
  • The impetus for partnershipworking – it may come from the bottom up or the top down. In other words, partnership might have developed as a response to needs and issues identified locally or as a result of a ‘top-down’ directive – for instance, in response to a new government policy or piece of legislation, in which case engagement might be compulsory rather than voluntary.
  • Planned collaboration/evolved relationship – some partnerships, like projects, arise because people have a specific outcome in mind. Alternatively, ideas about what you might do or achieve as partners might evolve over a period of time and as relationships develop.