Building real partnerships

Partnerships increase effectiveness, but need investment to make them efficient. Building partnerships is a key part of being prepared and will help you to pool resources, share expertise and develop consortium bids.


Partnerships should extend your skills or capacity

One of the risks of commissioning is that it can favour large organisations as service providers. However, consortium and partnership bids are attractive as they offer a breadth of expertise and the chance for local authorities to build a local ecology. For organisations in the arts and cultural sector, the chances of being successful will be increased by working with others.

Strategic leaders should support an infrastructure that fits the local 'ecology'; taking into account large organisations that might have capacity and offering a co-ordinating role. For example, Arts Council England funded National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) or Major Partner Museums (MPMs) might take a lead. In the meantime you should do your best to create your own collaborations within and outside the sector.

When looking at your partnerships and capacity for effectiveness a starting point might be your own workforce. For some of you, working primarily with freelance teams brings its own challenges, especially when putting together new teams to resource new projects.

Collaborations between organisations or individual practitioners need to make business sense. They should be to increase skills or contact with a particular community group (for example with non-cultural specialists) or capacity (for example with other cultural specialists).

Partnerships require time

Many other specialists and service providers are under significant pressure themselves (youth services being a particular example) and working together can be a win-win situation. However, at the same time, this pressure can make it hard to get things started on the right footing. To develop an effective partnership there is no substitute for allowing time to build trust.

The same goes for working with commissioners who are also learning to work in new relationships. With new structures in many parts of local authorities there are departments coming together who have different objectives and ways of working, and challenges are commonplace. Everyone needs time and goodwill to make things work.