“…maybe sometimes it’s riskier not to take a risk. Sometimes all you’re guaranteeing is that things will stay the same.” ― Danny Wallace, Yes Man

I have been thinking recently about partnership and how often in the community and voluntary sector we talk about ‘partnership working’ as though it is some magic formula or mantra. We think that by simply talking about it we are doing it. I am staggered by the rarity of true, effective partnership working taking place in this sector. In this climate of depleted resources, greater need and financial pressure you would have thought we would be seeing more and more genuine partnerships, but we are not. Why is this?

Well, I have a few thoughts that I would like to share:

  • Lack Of Vision. It is all too easy to lose sight of the bigger, wider picture and restrict ourselves to the myopic interests of our own particular group or organisation. Where do we fit into the bigger picture? Of course, it is not easy to see much from a silo!
  • Lack Of Purpose. What is the thing that drove us to get involved in this work what is our group and organisation about? There is a danger we can lose sight of the overarching purpose and passion that originally drove us and our organisation.
  • Competition. It amazes me how competitive and ruthless the community and voluntary sector can be, chasing ever diminishing funding pots to do very similar work.
  • Funding Driven. How often do we see a group or organisation running itself ragged chasing so many funding opportunities at the expense of their identity and purpose?
  • Power Dynamic. In a kind of Darwinian approach to community and voluntary work, we often see that the organisation that is the biggest, loudest and best resourced gets the work and further resources. We also see a kind of possessiveness displayed by organisations and groups that feel that they have almost a ‘divine right’ to be the conduit of particular types of work by dint of how long they have been around. Of course, there may be times when these groups are best placed for certain things but let’s not assume this is always the case. We also need to be wary of the self-appointed community ‘gatekeepers and leaders’.
  • Process Driven. It can prove frustrating when seeking to develop meaningful partnerships with large institutions that are so caught up in the process that they have lost sight of the ultimate goal.
  • Hidden Agendas. See all of the above!

I have done the easy bit of highlighting barriers and difficulties to ‘meaningful’ partnership. Next week I will look at some of the answers that may take us forward.

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