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partnerships:articles:still [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
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 +Dancing while Standing Still
 +By Drew Mackie
 +The last few years have seen an orgy of partnership building in the UK.
 +The government'​s urge towards "​joined up thinking"​ has led to the
 +formation of a swathe of partnerships that attempt to bring together
 +various departmental interests, quangos and voluntary organisations.
 +Every bid to Whitehall or to Europe needs to show how other
 +organisations are involved and how the affected community will be
 +consulted. The appropriate boxes must be ticked if the bid is to
 +succeed. This is a great and welcome change from a decade ago when
 +government and local authority departments worked in isolation and the
 +disadvantages of such a system were obvious in patchy and partial
 +Partnerships have become the fashionable way to do things. Even small
 +authorities may be involved in around thirty partnerships covering
 +matters from the transport to health. It becomes more and more difficult
 +to track the delivery record of such a system and allocate
 +responsibility for success or failure. Many partnerships have become
 +talking shops, the mere fact of having formed the partnership being
 +taken as a sign of action.
 +A parallel development is community involvement. Again all bids will
 +require to demonstrate how this is to be done. We have moved from a
 +situation a decade ago where the involvement of the community was rare
 +to one where it is obligatory. Two problems have emerged:
 +-   ​Communities are under increasing pressure to become involved. This
 +    can put a strain on the time of community activists and the
 +    community itself. "I participated last week!" is becoming a frequent
 +    refrain as communities are consulted on matters of health,
 +    transport, housing, education, planning, economic development,​ etc.
 +    The quality of such consultation is necessarily variable and many
 +    bodies are consulting because they have to, not because they believe
 +    in it.
 +-   ​Consultation itself does not guarantee delivery. A proper community
 +    involvement programme will involve the delivery agencies so that
 +    false expectations are not raised and delivery becomes part of the
 +    process. Communities are increasingly complaining that their
 +    involvement has not resulted in better delivery. "Why should I
 +    bother when nothing happens?"​
 +Taken together we have a dangerous cocktail here. On the one hand the
 +delivery system itself is struggling to make sense of partnership
 +working while communities are becoming turned off by ineffective
 +involvement processes which encourage them to learn more about their
 +problems without necessarily delivering solutions. One city now pays
 +local people to attend local community events - with the result that
 +nobody will now attend such events unless they get paid.
 +The danger is a backlash against both partnerships and public
 +involvement. The two strands of partnership and community involvement
 +have encouraged great expectations but may have acted as a substitute
 +rather than a stimulus for the improved delivery of services and
 +development. In themselves they are laudable and many of us have spent
 +our lives trying to encourage them. All this may be at risk if both
 +partnerships and community involvement are not made more effective.
 +The point is that processes of partnership and involvement are means to
 +an end and that end is the more efficient and equitable delivery of
 +services and facilities. At the same time as improving the liaison
 +between and within agencies and communities we should be examining the
 +processes of delivery. They are the opposite sides of the same coin.
 +More work needs to be done on the processes, structures and vehicles of
 +partnership working. Too often a partnership is just a bunch of people
 +from different organisations who just happen to be present in the same
 +room, giving the impression of dancing together while actually standing
 +We need to develop methods which tap the potential and synergy of
 +"​joined up organisations"​ and these are likely to be based on network
 +rather than traditional hierarchical structures. Community involvement
 +must be given its place in these developing networks. Delivery should be
 +the main criterion for thought and action.
 +Working with a housing community some years ago, I had just finished
 +running a workshop on the problems and opportunities of the estate. An
 +old lady spoke up: "The big problem here's the pipeline!"​ The attending
 +consultants were non-plussed - they didn't know about this. Gas? Water?
 +What pipeline? She went on: "Every time a man from the Council comes
 +down here, he says its all in the pipeline. That's the biggest problem!"​
 +Got it in one, dear!
 +Drew Mackie \<<​>​\>​
 +[Free books on Partnerships and participation at Partnerships
 +Online](../​part/​index) \>
partnerships/articles/still.txt ยท Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)