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spacerPartnership Improvement Programme

The Partnership Improvement Programme (PIP) was piloted between October 2005 and April 2006. These pilots developed an approach to more effective engagement and partnership between local councils and voluntary and community organisations. PIP is now being rolled out in three regions, funded by Capacitybuilders.

Good working relationships between local councils and voluntary and community organisations are vital for the successful implementation of a growing number of initiatives, including Local Area Agreements and increased service provision. 

Historically these relationships have often been difficult. Such difficulties are caused by a variety of factors ranging from misunderstanding each other's work and remit, to a lack of mutual respect and trust. The underdeveloped nature of these cross-sector relationships undermines the potential of partnership working.

The Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) and the Aston Centre for Voluntary Action Research (ACVAR) piloted the Partnership Improvement Programme (PIP) between October 2005 and April 2006. These pilots developed an approach to more effective engagement and partnership working across sectoral divides, enabling senior staff in local government and voluntary and community sectors (VCS) to respond to the challenges of working across VCS/statutory boundaries and in real partnerships. 

The PIP pilot revealed the difficulties and complexities of cross-sector partnership working. The barriers and obstacles to cross-sector partnership working identified in the pilot were shaped by local circumstances and local relationships. Because each local authority area is itself complex, and because there is great diversity between areas, uniform solutions to improvement which are imposed from outside are not appropriate. The flexible and adaptable approach of the Partnership Improvement Programme ensures that local solutions can be identified and developed to improve local partnership working.

Roll out of PIP

The Partnership Improvement Programme is being rolled out to three regions this year, starting in the North East on 13 June, before moving on to London and the North West later in the year. The programme will bring together senior staff from local authorities and local third sector organisations to identify new ways of working more effectively together.

Capacitybuilders is providing £165,000 in 2007/08 to fund the rollout of the programme, alongside a £50,000 contribution from the Office of the Third Sector.

Each local authority area participating in the programme will produce a joint, cross-sector partnership improvement plan. These plans will provide the foundations for senior staff in local government and the third sector to respond more constructively to the challenges of working across boundaries and in real partnerships.

Ben Cairns, Director of the Institute for Voluntary Action Research, said “this is a fantastic opportunity to move beyond the detail of cross-sector partnerships and pay proper attention to the relationships which are critical to their success. By helping to build mutual understanding and trust across the sectors, the Partnership Improvement Programme offers a real opportunity for change at a local level.”

Simon Hebditch, Chief Executive of Capacitybuilders commented: “It is vital that leaders and representatives from the public sector meet as equals with third sector leaders locally to build strong and sustainable partnerships. Capacitybuilders believes that an investment in this targeted partnership programme is the right way for us to help build strong relationships locally for the ultimate benefit of neighbourhoods and communities.”

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