Collaboration

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INTRODUCTION

Partnerships are defined by the Audit Commission (1998) as “joint working arrangements where parties are otherwise independent bodies who agree to co-operate to achieve common goals, create a new organisational structure or process to achieve these goals, plan and implement a joint programme and share relevant information, tasks and rewards”. Stern and Green (2005) clarify the definition of partnerships further as programmes that have “a high level of commitment, mutual trust, equal ownership and the achievement of a common goal, as distinct from networks which involve sharing information or other resources but not for the explicit purpose of joint working”.

Definitions are particularly significant to the topic of this essay, as the component characteristics of partnerships as set out above are often overlooked by organisations and individuals when approaching the delivery of activities ‘in partnership’.

In theory, partnership involves collaborative working where people pool ideas and expertise, so the leadership, energy and services produced are greater than the sum of their individual capabilities. It also requires re-thinking the remit or boundaries of organisations within which leadership is to be distributed and respected. This is particularly relevant when considering partnerships to deliver single outcome agreements that have previously been the responsibility of one body, or several bodies in isolation. These are challenges to which public sector organisations (and those with a statutory remit to deliver) must now respond. This recognises that “expertise is owned by the many rather than the few” (Gronn, 2002), and requires trust and a multi-agency approach for successful delivery.

Working in partnership is a crucial task for councils, police forces, health authorities and NHS trusts. The number of partnerships is set to increase,…...

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