Collaboration and partnership working in the downturn


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Collaboration and partnership working in the downturn

  1. 1. CENTRE FRO LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 2010   COLLABORATION AND PARTNERSHIP: WORKING THROUGH THE DOWNTURN - A CLPS DISCUSSION PAPER June 2010 Presented  at  CLPS  summer  School  Reflecting   Back  –  Looking  Forwards:  the  challenges  ahead   for  public  policy  and  Community   empowerment  in  a  new  Political  era”     Professor John Diamond Centre for Local Policy Studies Edge Hill University St Helens Road Ormskirk Lancashire L39 4QP Tel: 01695 584765 June 2010      
  2. 2. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 2 Professor John Diamond COLLABORATION AND PARTNERSHIP: WORKING THROUGH THE DOWNTURN - A CLPS DISCUSSION PAPER June 2010 SUMMARY: The squeeze on the public sector and the scale of the cuts in spending over the next five - ten years will dramatically transform the social, organisational and political relationships between (and within) the public, voluntary and community and private sectors. For nearly 20 years successive UK public policy initiatives have sought to embed partnership working as the central organising principle in their approach to public services. The language of collaboration and multi-agency or intra- organisational working has become the new orthodoxy of public service reform. As part of this new discourse the voluntary and community sector had been re-badged as the Third Sector and was seen as a necessary part of the new public services. After the 2010 General Election the Liberal/Conservative Coalition have now defined them as ‘Civil Society’ But, following New Labour's election in 1997 there was a significant acceleration in the scale and scope of partnership working. By 2007 the Treasury and the Office of the Third Sector were promoting the voluntary and community sector as key parts of a reformed and enhanced public sector. Whilst the rhetoric may appear over-blown the VCS - together with changed organisational structures in housing, social services and community based businesses - were emerging as important contributors to a more devolved and personalised welfare and public sector. In 2007 as the banking and financial services sector started to implode these claims became outdated. By 2009/2010 as the UK entered the period leading up to its General Election the scale of the cuts in public spending became clearer. By the spring of 2010 it seemed as though the private sector's emergence from the recession was in the balance whilst globally (and in Europe) the impact on public agencies and the local state was more direct and evident. In the UK the impact of the cuts in public spending suggest that the public sector (its work force and those who depend upon its services) is about to experience its "recession". After nearly 20 years of growth what are the new consequences for those who want to promote collaboration and partnership working? Does the Down Turn make it easier or harder? How do we apply the lessons of the last decade of multi-agency working in an environment which seems more resistant and nervous about working co-operatively? In an Age of Austerity and Anxiety for public sector leaders/managers what are the opportunities to see collaboration and partnership as CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  3. 3. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 3 Professor John Diamond potential solutions to real problems? If commissioning and contracting out are the new orthodoxies where does promoting a values based approach sit? This CLPS Discussion Paper argues that in the current context we need to revisit the claims made for collaboration and multi-agency working and to reassert the values base they encompass and to encourage public sector leaders and managers to support the current and next generation of practitioners and thinkers who promote cross-boundary work and inter-disciplinary practice. INTRODUCTION: The growth in "partnership" working over the past 20 - 25 years has, almost, made the term redundant. In successive central government initiatives from the mid 1980s onwards the key word has been "partnership". Linked to this idea of working together has been the re-discovery of multi or inter agency working. Both these ideas - partnership working and multi-agency practice - were not new back in the 1980s. But, then (as now) they were offered as the solution to address failing social and welfare services as well as encouraging public or community participation (Balloch & Taylor 2001; Domenico et al 2009) The ambiguities surrounding both these approaches to how public and welfare services are organised and then made available to communities reveal a profound misunderstanding of how the critique of public services developed in the 1980s. The stress on inter-agency co-operation/co-ordination at neighbourhood or city level has been felt across a broad and diverse range of services. The pace of development was accentuated after 1997 and was accompanied by reviews of the skills, training and professional development needs of workers and managers across the public sector. In parallel, the New Labour Government sought to include the voluntary and community sector in work force development as well as bringing them into the provision of services to particular groups. These developments - in general but also specific initiatives in childrens' services, working with young offenders, regeneration projects based in the deprived urban, rural and out of town housing estates - were part of a more deliberate set of changes which claimed to be about the modernisation of the public sector (Cochrane 2007; Diamond 2007; Pratchett et al 2009). The expansion of UK higher education can be seen as part of this broader restructuring of social, economic and welfare institutions and agencies. Such developments funded and directed from the centre were, in effect, based upon an analysis which believed that public sector agencies could not transform CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  4. 4. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 4 Professor John Diamond themselves. This short reflection takes as its starting point that we are in a severe economic downturn. The impact upon what we do, how we do it and the organisational/structural "homes" we are located in are unknown at this stage. But, the last 20 years or so have been a time of economic growth. Partnership working was "fashionable" but usually untested (Davies 2007; Diamond 2006; McQuaid 2010). In my experience partnerships are often passive, uninterested in the potential gains of working co-operatively and are driven by very instrumental goals. The Downturn is both much more challenging but perversely may offer opportunities for degrees of collaboration not available in the Upturn. ISSUES TO REFLECT UPON: We are living and working in a time of transition. The collapse of the international financial and banking system, the apparent failure of the neo-liberal agenda, the growth of international protest movements against the Iraq War and Climate Change the rise of the far Right across Europe (and in the UK) and the on-going crisis of liberal democracy in the UK at the local level especially point to the need for progressive challenge. On the contrary in this CLPS Discussion paper I want to suggest that whilst we can regard the current period as representing a transitional phase we need to reflect upon the legacy (ies) of both New Labour and the institutionalisation of the Voluntary and Community Sector. I want to suggest that by assessing the impact of both New Labour's social regeneration practice and analysing the way the VCS has been incorporated into local and national elites we can speculate on the potential to create " a new room for manoeuvre" at a local level. My main argument is that the neo-liberal agenda still acts as the "default" position for key policy makers and political leaders. The challenge is to look at ways in which the experience of neighbourhood activists, global/local activists and members of the Academy can be linked to help develop an alternative social and economic framework. In the UK since 1997 New Labour has promoted a neighbourhood or local focus to its regeneration initiatives with little or no regard to existing social and political networks. As a consequence we can describe New Labour's regeneration partnership programme as representing a form of internal colonialism where decisions on what is needed and how it is to be framed are taken outside neighbourhoods and then imported into localities. Through a discussion of the policy and practice implications this has for the VCS, City Hall, regeneration practitioners and neighbourhood activists I want to suggest that we need to strengthen links between activists at the local level, draw in members of the Academy and promote independent not dependent networks to be the home of an alternative political and practice space. (Andalo 2010; Blake et al 2008; Cupitt with Mihailidou 2009; Eliott 2010). CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  5. 5. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 5 Professor John Diamond DISCUSSION POINTS: The promotion of multi-agency working in the UK over the past 20 years by the state can be located within the context of attempts to reform, reduce and reshape the public realm. We can see it as part of the neo-liberal "agenda" in which the state sub-contracts its activity to a range of private, independent (or not for profit) organizations (Harvey 2000; Wainwright 2003). At the same time the state reduces its regulatory role and governance/accountability mechanisms or structures are shared too. I want to locate these developments in a broader context of: • Approaches to urban re-structuring in the UK through regeneration initiatives (Parkinson et al 2009; Turnstall 2009); • Deliberate policies/practice to ensure cross-boundary working (Keban and Smith 2010; Whitchurch 2008; Williams 2002); • Deliberate and strategic choices by the former UK Labour Government to promote the Third Sector as a service provider through contracting, commissioning and investment in capacity building (Birch and Whittam 2008; Munro et al 2008); • Changing role of HEIs in the UK to support cross-sector working and deliberate choices about linking into regional economic/employment strategies (Benneworth 2007; Jones and Morris 2008); • Changing role of HEIs as civil society agencies "embedded" in their locality (Pearce 2010). These developments shape the ways in which particular initiatives are played out at a local level (but also how they are experienced within an agency). What we can observe in terms of intra-organisational collaboration is, of course, much more nuanced and complex than "it was working" or "no it was not working". In terms of leadership, voice and identity we observe (as we might expect) a range of practice and approaches. A key (and recurring) feature present in positive examples is the extent to which individuals were comfortable in working across boundaries. We can observe a more graded approach to collaboration from co-ordination, co- operation, co-existence to collaboration where agencies (or departments) "merge" around a shared theme. The events of the last three years (internationally) suggest that we are moving towards a much more competitive environment where opportunities for collaboration are likely to be reduced and where urban/civic leadership is likely to be weak. These ideas and their implications are explored below: CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  6. 6. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 6 Professor John Diamond POLICY AND PRACTICE CONTEXT: In the UK over the past 40 years there have been a number of separate but connected public policy initiatives in response to significant economic and social changes. Whilst a number of industrial economies (North America and members of the European Union) have experienced (broadly) similar changes we need to remember that the particularities of place, time and the nature of political institutions and civil society are all important. The discourse of regeneration and partnership working in the UK reflects a number of key assumptions about each of the above and their relationship with each other. Since the late 1960s the UK model of regeneration can be said to include the following: • it is a response to industrial and economic decline or re-structuring - ; • it is an attempt by government/public agencies to respond to the impact of migration into the UK and the changing demography of neighbourhoods and cities; • it was an example of positive discrimination through education and housing initiatives to address the specific needs of migrant workers and their families; • it represented a deliberate strategy on the part of government to re-generate former industrial/derelict land in urban areas as an attempt to attract investment and relocation of business as cities declined; • it illustrated the need to counter "white/middle-class flight" from cities by making them seem safer and more attractive to live in; These policy responses (over 20 years) shared a number of characteristics: regeneration initiatives were seen to be necessary as a consequence of the "failure" of local agencies or local businesses. The particular form and content of projects were a reflection of what external agencies defined as necessary. And by the late 1980s/1990s regeneration projects were seen to be the "home" of a number of other strategies and assumptions: • they offered an opportunity to renew civil society because local political institutions were seen to be "failing"; • the decline in party political activity (membership of parties, voting in elections at a local level) was seen to be a contributing factor in the decline in the quality of local political leadership and accountability; CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  7. 7. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 7 Professor John Diamond • the potential offered by "regeneration projects" included - partnerships between welfare and public agencies; local business entrepreneurs; local political leaders (after 1997 this meant elected mayors); and local community residents elected onto "partnership boards"; • the need to "sustain" these initiatives after state funding had ended also prompted the desire to establish local coalitions or alliances of different interest groups; In the UK these responses accelerated after 1997 with the election of New Labour. We are at a point of change and transition as the economic consequences of the collapse of the international banking/finance system in 2008 on the public sector becomes more evident. But the language of "regeneration" in the UK has not just been about "failure". The New Labour government has linked the expansion of higher education with its direct impact on towns and cities as illustrating the renewal or renaissance of urban areas. The "regeneration model" in advance capitalist industrial economies is very much about reclaiming the "urban" or the "city" for the employed and the middle classes (Carpenter et al 2007; Diamond 2010; Newman and Clarke 2009; Purdue 2007) at some cost. We can see that regeneration projects are usually area or neighbourhood based - the spatial dimension is important; they are usually focussed upon declining areas of the city with high levels of social need; they are often neighbourhoods in "transition" - changing population, important demographic features (young children, elderly people, individuals with a range of needs) and poor quality housing, infrastructure, education and health resources. And they are based upon multi-agency or local partnerships. In practice, we can see their approaches as being “directed” by the centre. And they include an element of ‘passive coercion’. QUESTIONS OF LEADERSHIP, VOICE AND IDENTITY: A CONTESTED DISCOURSE AND A PARADIGMN SHIFT? The themes and questions identified above were (are?) intended to help shape a discussion about where we might be heading. I think that this next phase might include some of the following: • In the UK a retreat from integration and cross boundary working as different professional groups seek to reassert their particular "professional identity and discipline"; • At the same time there will be a need to think about how to develop "partnership" working in the context of the downturn and the backlash against collaboration - think this will lead to more nuanced discussions on co-operation but in a context of careful (cautious? ) thinking about line management; CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  8. 8. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 8 Professor John Diamond • Organisational cultures too will likely to be less open to collaboration but more responsive to co-operation on specific and defined issues; • A return to "localism" or a form of localism which stresses devolved service delivery but is weak on accountability and oversight; • The opening up of opportunities for strategic thinking/management discussions but a weakening of opportunities for middle managers in the public sector unless programmes carry professional accreditation and help to meet labour market needs; • A period in which the social and economic pressures and gaps between areas/communities open up and the race/class/gender/age differences accentuate - and lead to pressures for change (again) with urban areas; • There will be increasing pressures on the "left behinds" - the agencies/organisations based in urban/disadvantaged localities "holding the integrated approach together" - question here is what is their relationship to local universities and this is linked to the relationship between universities and their localities; • The links between local HEIs and their localities are (of course) complex. What links exist? What level of formality do they have? What are the links between HEIs and civic institutions, Third Sector organisations and welfare/public agencies? • The role of the public sector (or public realm) is critical here too. I anticipate that the legacy of neo-liberalism will be the way in which the G20 project fails to meet the expectations of communities and individuals. As such we might expect to see a much more explicit return to neighbourhood or localist action as a mirror to the globalisation movement(s). Here too there will be tensions between HEIs/academics who define themselves as activists and their links with (and capacity/willingness to respond to) local neighbourhoods; • There are likely to be still questions of governance, accountability and tensions between the neighbourhood and the centre - all of which are linked to (and are part of) the political crisis of liberal democracy. OTHER VOICES OTHER POSSIBLE FRAMEWORKS: This summary reflects the dominant discourse. It reflects too the needs of neo- liberal agenda: restructuring of the labour markets, movement of labour, weaker trade unions, less state regulation and political and civic institutions which can meet CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  9. 9. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 9 Professor John Diamond the needs of capital and business. But the other discourse present here is one which sits within a set of ideas shaped by emancipatory politics. The regeneration initiatives in the late 1960s were also influenced by ideas of participation and community based solutions derived from co-operation and collaboration. But their advocates also recognised the presence of conflict inherent in the regeneration models. And we can see the emergence too of a “new localism” linked to the co- production of services at the local or sub-regional level (Boyle and Harris 2009; Bunt and Harris 2010). From these approaches we can reflect upon the extent to which these projects are responsive to local needs; the ways in which the governance, management and accountability processes of the projects are open to discussion and negotiation (Huxham and Vangen 2000). We can also observe that the multi-agency/disciplinary approach of these projects contains a number of potential sites of conflict too. The extent to which ideas of "professionalism" and the "boundaries" between different professionals can be contested within such projects provides other potential places for debate and contest. As part of an on-going research project the following seeks to capture the qualities associated with different gradations of partnership working. Drawing upon the “Five Degrees of Partnership” approach we have attempted to map the organizational culture/structure alongside different ‘degrees’ of partnership working (Rush and Diamond 2009). As a working model it is offered here to stimulate discussion: CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  10. 10. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 10 Professor John Diamond And we need to think about the ways in which local alliances or networks which draw in activists, researchers and practitioners can articulate an alternative discourse to the present one. And it is one in which mergers, cuts and closures are likely (Carrington 2009, George 2010) CONCLUDING QUESTIONS: • After nearly 20 years of growth what are the new consequences for those who want to promote collaboration and partnership working? • Does the Down Turn make it easier or harder? • How do we apply the lessons of the last decade of multi-agency working in an environment which seems more resistant and nervous about working co- operatively? • In an Age of Austerity and Anxiety for public sector leaders/managers what are the opportunities to see collaboration and partnership as potential solutions to real problems? • If commissioning and contracting out are the new orthodoxies where does promoting a values based approach sit? CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  11. 11. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 11 Professor John Diamond Professor John Diamond Centre for Local Policy Studies Edge Hill University St Helens Road Ormskirk Lancashire L39 4QP Tel: 01695 584765 June 2010 CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  12. 12. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 12 Professor John Diamond REFERENCES Andalo,D. (2010) "Challenges Facing Voluntary Organisations" in The Guardian 7 April Balloch,S. and Taylor,M. (eds) (2001) Partnership working: Policy and Practice Bristol: The Policy Press Benneworth,P. (2007) Leading Innovation: Building effective regional coalitions for innovation NESTA Research Report December Birch, K. and Whittam, G. (2008) “The Third Sector and the Regional Development of Social Capital” in Regional Studies 42.3 (pp 437-450) Blake, G., Diamond, J., Foot, J., Gidley, B., Mayo, M., Shukra, K and Yarnit, M. (2008) Community Engagement and Community Cohesion York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation Boyle,D. and Harris,M. (2009) The Challenges of Co-production London: NESTA Bunt,L. and Harris,M. (2010) Mass Localism London: NESTA Carpenter, M., Freda, B. and Speeden, S. (eds) (2007) Beyond the Workfare State: labour markets, equality and human rights Bristol: Policy Press Carrington,D. (2009) Funding Our Future: Challenges and Opportunities in the Next Decade London: NCVO Cochrane,A. (2007) Understanding Urban Policy: A Critical Approach Oxford: Blackwell Cupitt,S with Mihailidou,A. (2009) Demonstrating the Difference London: Charities Evaluation Services Davies, J. (2007) “The Limits of Partnership: An Exit-Action Strategy for Local Democratic Inclusion” in Political Studies 55.4 (pp 779 – 800) Diamond, J. (2006) “Au Revoir to Partnerships” in IJPSM 19.3 (pp 279-286) Diamond, J. (2007) “Civic organisations and local governance: Learning from the experience of community networks” in Purdue (pp 53-68) Diamond,J. (2010) " Context to Globalisation and Regeneration Management" in Diamond,J., Liddle,J., Southern,A. and Osei,P. (eds) Urban Regeneration Management : International Perspectives London: Routledge CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  13. 13. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 13 Professor John Diamond Domenico Di M., Tracey, P. and Hough, H. (2009) “Social Economy Involvement in Public Service Delivery: Community Engagement and Accountability” in Regional Studies 43.7 (pp 981-992) Elliot,L. (2010) “After fool’s paradise, painful reality returns” in The Guardian 1 March Harvey, D. (2000) Spaces of Hope Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press George,S. (2010) " Can Mergers Benefit the Public Sector ?" in The Guardian 21 April Huxham,C. and Vangen,S. (2000) Perspectives on leadership in collaboration: how things happen in a (not quite) joined up world Urban Leadership Working Paper 8 University of the West of England Jones,A. and Morris,K. (2008) Can collaboration help places respond to the changing economy? London: The Work Foundation Kaban,K. and Smith,S. (2010) "Developing critical reflection within an inter-professional learning programme" inBradbury,H., Frost,N., Kilminster,S. and Zukas,M. (eds) (2010) Beyond Reflective Practice London: Routledge McQuaid,R.W. (2010) "Theory of organisational partnerships: partnerships advantages, disadvantages and success factors" in Osborne,S. (ed) The New Public Governance London:Routledge Munro, H., Roberts, M. and Skelcher, C. (2008) “Partnership Governance and Democratic Effectiveness in Community Leaders and Public Managers as Dual Intermediaries” in Public Policy and Administration 23.1 (pp 61 – 79) Newman,J. and Clarke,J. (2009) Publics, Politics and Power : Remaking the Public in the Public Sector London: Sage Parkinson,M., Ball,M., Blake,N. and Key,T. (2009) The Credit Crunch and Regeneration: Impact and Implications London: HMSO Pearce,J. (2010) " Co-Producing Knowledge : Critical Reflections on Researching Participation" in Pearce,J.(ed) Participation and Democracy in the 21st Century City Basingstoke : Macmillan Pratchett,L., Durose,C., Lowndes,V., Smith,G., Stoker,G. and Wales,C. (2009) Empowering communities to influence local decision making: Evidence-based lessons for policy makers and practitioners London: HMSO CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010
  14. 14. CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES 14 Professor John Diamond Purdue, D. (ed) (2007) Civil Societies and Social Movements London: Routledge Rush, L. and Diamond, J. (2009) Intra-organisational collaboration in one UK University: Potential for change or missed opportunity Paper to SRHE Annual Conference December. Tunstall,R. (2009) Communities in recession: the impact on deprived neighbourhoods York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation Wainwright, H. (2003) Reclaim the State London: Verso Whitchurch, C (2008) “Beyond administration and management: reconstructing the identities of professional staff in the UK higher education” to Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 30-4 (pp 375-386 Williams,P.(2002) "The competent boundary spanner" in Public Administration 80.1 (pp 103 - 124) CENTRE FOR LOCAL POLICY STUDIES | 2010