Derrick Johnstone facilitated a development day for the Essex OnLine Partnership (EOLP), which brings together the IT teams across the Essex local authorities, Police and Fire to reduce costs, improve information management and develop the quality of IT services. The Partnership has evolved significantly over the years and brought substantial value for its members through cost savings and other benefits, eg, in shared learning and a national profile. The timing of the event was significant: EOLP had reached a crossroads in its development, with questions about the future, about the Partnership’s focus and what will bind partner commitment.
Participants reaffirmed the purpose of EOLP and agreed steps to strengthen collaboration, including work on the next generation of IT infrastructure, recruitment of a new partnership manager, and more concerted action to capture and publicise Partnership impact and benefits. Other themes included the scope to make more of the combined staff resource across the partner authorities and the need for a greater focus on the ‘I’ in IT, as partner organisations seek to gain more from their information assets.
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The Smarter Partnerships website helps users improve partnership skills and performance. SITE SUSPENDED – CURRENTLY BEING REVAMPED
You will find there:
- interactive tools to assist individuals, cross-agency teams and partnerships assess both (i) partnership development and (ii) individual and team learning needs. Work your way through the stages, and get advice for actions you can take, appropriate to your circumstances.
- on-line resources: case studies, tools and links to help users address learning needs and improve partnership working
Smarter Partnerships was one of the first partnership toolkits to be developed, and remains the only freely available one which is genuinely interactive, in allowing users to assess their partnership, and their learning needs in real time, and receive feedback on what they can do to address these needs.
We continue to have approaches from other organisations to make use of the materials – most recently by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service. Smarter Partnerships tools now feature in their ‘Support for Collaborative Contracting’ package. This has been developed in the light of the decision by the Skills Funding Agency to move to Minimum Level Contracts, necessitating much wider development of supply chain partnerships amongst learning providers. Other recent examples of use have included a county basic skills partnership and an aboriginal drugs and alcohol partnership in Perth, Western Australia.
More generally, the usefulness of Smarter Partnerships is recognised in the frequency by which other sites provide links – eg, National School of Government, the Improvement Network and the Improvement Service (Scotland).
Smarter Partnerships was developed by Educe for the Employers Organisation for Local Government – now part of the Local Government Association. The project was originally funded by the then Department for Education and Skills, and built on a ‘state of the art’ review ( pdf 205KB in 2000 of partnerships and local government.
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The final stage of our place-based work with Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands (IEWM) involved advice to the Coventry Partnership
, in support of their IEWM-funded improvement project. This undertook qualitative research with young men (aged 16-35) in one part of the City, seeking to understand better their concerns, motivations and use of local public services. Partners sought to clarify what works and what doesn’t in how they work with different groups within this population, find better approaches and achieve both improved outcomes and savings.We also assisted the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire sub-regional partnership, building on their Total Place pilot. This aimed to generate savings, develop radical new forms of service delivery, accelerate performance and spread best practice. Projects within the programme related, eg, to children’s services, adult social care, procurement and asset management, strategic planning and infrastructure. Advice focused, for example, on performance metrics and shared services.
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Evaluation of the Business Broker Programme – final report (Brokering Business Connections) for Business in the Community (BitC) and the then Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) on the national pilot programme, testing out the role of Business Brokers supporting business involvement in Local Strategic Partnerships (LSPs) and neighbourhood renewal.
The summary report is available for download from Business in the Community. Full report here ( pdf 700KB)
The evaluation has informed the development of Business Connectors, the current BitC programme described as a “powerful network of secondments recruited from business … to tackle social issues in local neighbourhood areas, and in so doing, create a powerful new development experience for talented business people”. This has been seen as a contribution to the Government’s agenda for the Big Society, with a major expansion funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
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We worked with Kevin Griffiths of Chrysalis Outcomes for a client in the West Midlands to assess the likely local impact of public sector redundancies and options open to local partners to mitigate the worst effects. Questions posed of local partners have included:
- restructuring plans and redundancy profiles
- support made available for staff who are leaving, including outplacement
- prospects for alternative employment, especially where job growth is expected in the private sector
Recommendations addressed action by the public sector employers, Chamber of Commerce and College.
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Challenges in determining value for money in partnership working have come up repeatedly in our work through Improvement and Efficiency West Midlands (IEWM) with local authorities and Local Strategic Partnerships. We have delivered workshops on the subject, along with a digest of on-line material on VfM
, especially relating to research and tools which aid assessment of cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit (download
pdf 177 KB).An earlier briefing for IEWM provides background on the theme of VfM in partnership working
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