1 Working across organisational boundaries

Listen to the sixth instalment of Ellen’s story.

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Good news this week. After two years of struggling financially, the council has agreed to fund our stay and play sessions for the next three years. To be honest, it really helped that the local councillor and the commissioning manager both knew me from my previous role at the council. So often it seems to be about who you know.
Of course there are conditions. We have to deliver the sessions alongside their family support work in the local children's centre-- which shouldn't be a problem, although it does mean some awkward changes to the time of day we tend to work. The team aren't going to be keen on that. More difficult, they want us to include some of the families in the child protection system. Now Family Time has never worked with that group of clients, so my main task last week was to convince the family workers that they have the skills to do this.
The truth is that they weren't happy. I can't decide if they're just anxious on their own behalf or genuinely fear that Family Time is losing its sense of direction through all this collaboration with the council. I wonder if I will lose some of the team over it, actually. Maybe we can just reorganise around peoples' skills. Or perhaps I'll just have to be harsh and find a way to replace them with people with a different skill set.
I sat at home last night trying to think about all of this, drawing diagrams whilst watching some detective thing on TV, trying to fit everything together-- the things we want to do and the things we have to do, and the opportunities and the challenges of working more closely with the council.
I'm off now to talk with Hannah, who was my former boss at the council. She's really keen to explore move ways of working together. And she's asked me to work with her to set up an interagency locality planning group for family support services. And that's a great opportunity for me, although I'm less sure just what Family Time gets out of that one. I hope the answer is influence. We have a different way of working with families, and I'd like to think that the team at the council could learn from us on this one.
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Like Ellen, many leaders of voluntary organisations spend large amounts of their time collaborating working with colleagues from other organisations – collaborating formally and informally to make things happen. Sometimes working with other organisations involves funding, contracts, and a clear agreement as to how organisations will work together. At other times, there is a more open agenda to explore ways of working together to make things happen in a locality, improve services for people in need, offer integrated information or make a small corner of the world a better place – whether through the arts, the environment or aid.

2 Why focus on organisational boundaries?