Phil Mettam Blog

Partnerships – why bother you might ask?

About a year ago a number of the leaders of local organisations decided to try and make more of the good relationships that existed across our local public and third sector organisations. What we had was a number of constructive and well-intentioned meetings and networks, however these had little collective coherence or shared purpose.

So we decided to have a bit of time-out together to see whether or not we could work in a way where our joined-up effort would help us make more of a difference to the quality of life for local people.

So we had a collection of well-intentioned leaders trying to work out what to do and how to do it.

It was an interesting clash of cultures, we had leaders in uniform, elected local councillors, experienced managers and a reasonable gender mix. One thing was clear everyone in the room wanted to do more for local people, and they were willing to give their time, expertise and knowledge to help find of way of working together. To the great credit of all involved there was no positioning for power and it emerged that that the local council and local NHS would take shared responsibility for moving the group forward.

We got going by trying ‘big brain’ visioning, and trying to describe a vision for what would characterise an improvement in the quality of life for local people in 10 years. There were lots of big ideas, some exciting, some barmy. We also realised that many of the things we talked about were already the responsibility of one of the statutory organisations in the room, and we wanted to avoid stepping on toes, this was all about working together to add value to existing roles.

After a few months our initial ideas turned into three collective priorities. These are rural and social isolation, making our towns more family friendly, and the aspirations of our young people. Whilst we were developing these themes we were also testing them by investing some of the financial resources that we had agreed to pool. Some small scale but important (because they worked and made a real difference to people’s every day lives) initiatives were put in place. These included funding contributions towards ‘Wheels to Work’ a scheme that helps people with transportation to work or training opportunities, the ‘Take Five’ Project supporting local school children across Bassetlaw which focusses on breathing, grounding and self-awareness to promote self-control and self-esteem, ‘Health & Wellbeing Support in Rural Areas’ a rural community hub has been created, giving people at risk of, or experiencing social and rural isolation, access to a social network and a variety of services. ‘N3 Broadband’ provision opening up possibilities for rurally isolated people and improving access to services.

We have held a rural conference which created lots of energy and ideas about how to address isolation, we initiated the recent Big Ideas, Big Ambitions event for young people, and we are challenging and supporting the local council with their plans to improve Retford and Worksop.

It is early days for our Public and Third Sector Partnership, we have already come a long way, the relationships that we are building across the partnership will endure, and from that will spring more ideas, more joint working and a better understanding of how our own organisations can be more effective. We are already actively working with private sector leaders locally and encouraging them to also focus on the same three priorities, and we can already see signs of benefits coming from that.

So why bother?

Partnership and collaboration is hard, things get in the way, it takes personal effort, it takes time, and can sometimes seem unimportant to others.

We bother because we care, we care about local people and local families, we value local organisations, and we believe in the fantastic potential of the people of Bassetlaw. So watch this space for more information.

Or even better get involved!