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Partnership history and projects

This is the text of a leaflet about Partnership Ltd, published in 1995 by director David Wilcox.

Leaflet copy

I set up the organisation which became Partnership in 1978 after 12 years of journalism, mainly with the London Evening Standard. While writing about the conflicts of urban development I found there was scope for more collaboration.

But where residents, businesses and Government did have shared interests they usually lacked a common language, and an organisation through which to work together.

I was living in North Kensington when the Westway elevated motorway was built, creating 23 acres of derelict land. Incredibly for an area rife with social tension the council and local groups agreed to create a charitable trust to develop the land, and the North Kensington Amenity Trust was born in 1971.

In 1977 I became chair of the trust, and realised that with a few similar organisations around the country, it could be a model for a new type of 'third sector' partnership.

Contracts in the late 1970s and early 1980s provided opportunities to test whether that was the case.

During the 1980s I worked in Partnership Ltd with Les Robinson and Diane Warburton to help set up more local trusts, and provide training.

In 1986 the Department of the Environment commissioned us to produce a good practice guide on sustainable local partnership initiatives.

Publication by HMSO of Creating Development Trusts in 1988 provided official recognition and encouragement to local councils and others to support a partnership approach. In 1992 I helped a steering group of practitioners set up the Development Trusts Association.

By the 1990s ideas of partnership were commonplace, and many funding programmes specified both partnership arrangements and the involvement of the wider community.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation gave me the opportunity to develop wider models for participation, research appropriate techniques, and publish these in a guide in 1994.

During this work it struck me that there could be much to learn from the processes of change in large organisations, where rigid hierarchies were being replaced by more participatory management styles. Could community workers advocating empowerment for local groups find some common cause with managers developing empowered work groups?

The answer, I believe, is yes. However, terms like partnership, once so useful, may now mask the complexity of relationships needed to tackle urban and rural regeneration.

I have recently explored these complexities in projects ranging from the development of community forests in 12 areas of England, to rural development in Northern Ireland and local economic development in Glasgow.

Throughout I have found common aspects of partnership and participation - the need to develop a shared vision, trust and commitment as well as efficient systems and procedures.

And while we can learn from the successes and failures of others, partnerships must be created by those who will run them. These lessons inform what I do now.

Recently I have started working on how computer networks can serve communities and help build partnerships.

On the one hand the journalist in me is excited by the the scope offered by these networks for democratic sharing of information.

These days communities of interest are defined by discussion groups on Internet as well as by local clubs. Voluntary bodies create home pages on World Wide Web rather than launch a new publication. Work groups need never meet.

On the other hand there is nothing better than the older technology of flip charts, pens and time in a group to work through problems and ideas.

25 years ago the chaos of motorway construction sparked the creativity to form a trust in North Kensington. These days pressures of change make chaos constant, and we must draw our creativity from new sources.

It is not enough to take our old structures - whether council committees of company Boards - and simply invite more people to the table.

Today's partnerships are often complex webs of alliances, which change as different funds become available from Government or Europe, all demanding a tick in the participation box.

We are only just realising that computer networks may provide both models for thinking about networks, and aids which will help to develop them.

Partnership projects 1978 - 1995

Setting up local initiatives

  • Establishing and running the Tower Hamlets Environment Trust in East London, and the Tower Hamlets Centre for Small Business, for the Greater London Council (1978-80).
  • Setting up Southwark Environment Trust, for Southwark Borough Council (1981).
  • Designing and establishing Operation Groundwork in St Helens, then helping set up another five Groundwork Trusts for the Countryside Commission (1980-82).
  • Setting up the Barrows Enterprise Trust in Glasgow's street market for the Scottish Development Agency (1982).
  • Studies in Motherwell, Inverclyde, Leith, Edinburgh and Aberdeen for the SDA (1984-9).
  • Running the London Countryside Bureau, providing information for people wishing to visit the countryside around London. Supported by the Countryside Commission (1986).
  • Converting a local authority initiative into the Creswell Heritage Trust - for Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire County Councils (1988-9).
  • Working with new and existing initiatives in Belfast, Brighton, Colne Valley, Deptford, Hackney, Hastings, Hounslow, Loftus, Liverpool, Norwich, Ripon, Spitalfields and Whitstable.

Support services and publications

  • We helped design the Shell Better Britain Campaign in 1981 for Shell UK Limited, and have produced action packs and other materials for the campaign since. We advised on redesign of the Campaign in 1990, and again in 1994-95.
  • Produced back-up packs for the Channel 4 Worldwise series (1985-86).
  • Designed and produced the Community Landscapes Pack for Manchester City Council (1987-88).
  • Developed promotional and launch materials for the Sussex Countryside Campaign with the Sussex Wildlife Trust (1987).
  • Researched materials for tenants considering new forms of housing management for the Scottish Development Department (1988).
  • We carried out the first study of trusts, for the Department of the Environment, published as Creating Development Trusts (HMSO, 1988)
  • Advised the Civic Trust on design of their national Regeneration Campaign promoting trusts and local projects (1989).
  • Produced on behalf of the Civic Trust the first comprehensive guide to community-based regeneration projects (1989).
  • Helped devise an information pack and training programme for fundraising and grantmaking Community Trusts for the Charities Aid Foundation (1990).
  • Devised a model and training materials for Development Trusts in Task Force areas, for the Department of Trade and Industry and British Telecom (1991).
  • Developed an Operating System for new and existing trusts for the Groundwork Foundation (1991-92)
  • Developed materials and launch of The Backyard Club for Channel Four Television (1993).
  • Designed the Towns and Citizens Campaign for the Association of Town Centre Management (1993).
  • Advised on development of a national urban forestry initiative in 1994.
  • Wrote and published The Guide to Effective Participation, for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (published 1994).
  • Advised Glasgow Development Agency on local economic development partnerships (1995).


  • Designed and carried out the relaunch of the Countryside Commission in 1982.
  • ·Helped design and run the first National Conservation Conference for the Nature Conservancy Council in 1987, and worked on the ensuing Partnership in Practice initiative.
  • Planned the first conference on Regional Environmental Networks with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in 1988.
  • Advised on the relaunch of Rural Forum (Scotland) (1988-89).
  • Organised on behalf of the Civic Trust 'Spreading the Word' - the first national conference for practitioners in development trusts and regeneration projects (1989).
  • Facilitated workshops leading to formation of the Association of Development Trusts (1991).
  • Ran a conference to develop new rural partnerships In Northern Ireland in 1995.
  • Planned and ran Communities Online with Urban Forum, BT Centre October 1995.

….. now on to the story from 1995

David Wilcox

More about Partnerships Online : Partnerships Online Home : Partnership Guides

partnerships/partline/leaf.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)