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.