The secret to collaborative funding in practice? Relationships, trust, time and reflection.

The secret to collaborative funding in practice? Relationships, trust, time and reflection.

October 2017


To celebrate the publication of our new research on working collaboratively in place, we asked some of the people who took part in our case studies what advice they would give to other organisations embarking on cross-sector partnership working in a particular geography.

A Trust and Foundation Perspective

‘Arrive gently. Engage patiently. Stay awhile.

We’ve learned that spending time listening first, building trust, and making a commitment for the long term are approaches that help place-based collaborations succeed.’

Carolyn Sawers, Corra Foundation (Partnership Drugs Initiative Scotland Case Study)

‘Building strong, trusting relationships has been the most important element to enable partners to have robust, challenging conversations without falling out!

These relationships are needed at all levels across organisations – funders, third sector and public sector alike. At manager/strategic level to ensure any intervention is embedded within wider systems and has the best chance of being sustained in the longer term. At operational/delivery level so that the intervention is understood, welcomed and supported to ensure it has the best chance of success and achieving positive outcomes.’

Christine Scullion, The Robertson Trust (Inclusion Plus Dundee Case Study)

‘People value action more than reflection, so there is a tendency to go straight to action without enough time built in to reflect on the learning. Agree that taking time to collectively make sense of what is going on is part of the work.

  • Design an alliance that sets out how you will work together and the kind of culture or atmosphere you will create. Include how you will be with each other when things get difficult. This builds trust and creates shared responsibility.
  • Building relationships based on trust involves acknowledging that emotions are present in the work and you need to work with them.
  • Building relationships always takes longer than you think.
  • When working in place, remember that systems produce outcomes, not individuals or organisations.’

Habiba Nabatu, Lankelly Chase (York Pathways Case Study)

A Public Sector Perspective

‘In our experience, the key planks to a successful collaboration are honesty, openness and a willingness to be courageous and flexible to get to the right outcome.

In the Bristol case study, we were very transparent about what we were aiming for in terms of headline outcomes (the approach needed to focus on beneficiaries experiencing inequality or disadvantage) and what our parameters were (as a democratic organisation, the final decisions would be made by Cabinet and the money available was fixed). We then invited people into a co-design initially on a very informal basis, then on a more formal footing once we all understood each other’s perspectives.

We were really lucky in the fact that our voluntary and community sector partners were highly skilled and committed to shaping the future of the sector, were willing to work without recourse to their own organisational agendas and gave of their time, expertise and ideas generously – and those working on it from the Council side were able to be innovative and build the work into a strong shape. We collectively worked hard to share the progress we were making regularly to the wider sector and inside the Council, in order to be as inclusive of all interests as possible.

And finally, we took our time. Building the trusting relationships, the thinking, the testing and the process were not swift things – we worked on this together for nearly two years from the initial idea to the allocation of funding through the new approach. It was this time spent that enabled us all to build a strong funding prospectus and the confidence in all parties, including politicians, to withstand the inevitable ripples and in some cases negative reactions when the change began to be implemented.’

Di Robinson, Bristol City Council (Bristol Case Study)

A Voluntary Sector Perspective

‘A focus on building relationships with services’

‘The pathways approach is designed to improve outcomes for people with complex needs. It recognises that this multiplicity of need is often compounded by the complexity of the system within which support services operate.

Sitting within the system, York Pathways aims to be a catalyst for system change. One of the critical, facilitative elements for this when developing the service, was the formation of a Strategic Board prior to the service becoming operational. This enabled strategic partners to begin the process of thinking systemically and problem solving collectively from a place-based perspective. It would have been even better if information about the service and learning from the Board had been filtered down and across to operational partners, as this would have enabled York Pathways to ‘hit the ground running’ more effectively. One practical way of ensuring this would have been to recruit the project manager one month earlier than the rest of the team, with a focus on building relationships with services in order to build understanding and trust and facilitate referral routes’

Laura Thorne, Together UK (York Pathways Case Study)

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