Why a report on partnership working is, in fact, hugely exciting.

Last year, we commissioned a report into partnership working across our area as part of the ongoing development of a children’s zone in North Camden.  Funded in part by Camden Council, the intention was to explore the barriers and opportunities to collaborating around the child poverty agenda and to explore ways forward.

Partnership working is a term that I have mixed feelings about. It promises much, but frequently delivers little. It covers all manner of set-ups, from nominal ‘name-you-name-me’ partnerships of convenience to highly collaborative and integrated approaches to addressing specific issues and challenges.

It is also one of the areas that our trip to Harlem Children’s Zone taught us a limited amount about. HCZ and indeed the other organisations we visited were good at developing relationships with funders and supporters, be they federal or philanthropic, but as far as I was aware rarely with other federal agencies and service providers. In fact one of HCZ’s distinctive features is arguably its circumvention of delivery partners, instead effectively and efficiently delivering the full range of services and support required from cradle to career, whether in education, health or community work. As I described in a previous blog, Geoffrey Canada’s frustration at obstruction in Harlem schools drove the creation of their academies, the single biggest element of the HCZ pipeline. It is in the areas of fundraising and research that partnerships come to the fore.

One of our key observations about how a children’s zone might work in London was that it would need to focus on and harness the extraordinary resource that already exists, rather than seeking to recreate or replicate it. Both the geographical shape and the welfare infrastructure in our context require a more intelligent approach, and professionals working with children and young people from every background will pay testament to the fact that impact is as much about organisation as it is about resource. In such a space, partnership working takes on a radically more transformational role. Indeed, our Promise Worker Pilot highlights partnership working as one of three key responsibilities, alongside face-to-face engagement and impact measurement. It cannot be underestimated.

We’ll be launching our report into partnership working in October 2013.

So what might a Promise Partnership look like?

As you might imagine, answering this question is a journey we are on rather than a solution we intend to hypothesise, although the report provides a number of insights. Produced by Emma Gasson and Ella Britton, a wide range of individuals and organisations shared their experience of partnership working both as users and service providers. This included children, young people and parents as well as professionals from education, health, social services and the voluntary sector. Suffice to say, the report has raised more questions than it answers.

However, it does move us towards a more effective and powerful way of working together across our zone. It speaks much more to the innovative approach of the Strive Partnership than HCZ, whose work on building a cradle to career civic infrastructure and blogs on community engagement in collective impact have been hugely enlightening as we think about our work at The Winch.

Strive’s work on ‘a cradle to career civic infrastructure’ seems far more relevant to a London context.

We hope to launch the Promise Partnership Report in October this year, to share our learning from its development and publication as well as outlining next steps to supporting what is an already emerging partnership of cradle to career, wraparound support. The Promise Worker Pilot and Promise Tech, a platform to support impact measurement and partnership working, are central tenets of this strand of our work and we look forward to building, and learning from, a coalition of organisations and professionals who can move forward our promise to tackle child poverty in North Camden.

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