Mark Friedman’s Results Based AccountabilityTM has, central to its core, multi-agency partnership working. Success of delivery of results or ‘the conditions the community wish to see’ is the ability of a range of agencies to come together with a shared aim and purpose.
It further relies on the balance of tension between the needs of individual members and the collective commitment of the whole.
Assuming that this will happen simply because representatives sit around the table together is naive and presents an enormous risk. From the outset, any multi agency partnership must consider the following:
‘The partnership vision is clear, ambitious and achievable. It is owed and agreed by all partner agencies.’
Increasingly we are seeing the demand for multi-agency partnership working, be they clusters, hubs or other strategic partnerships. Bringing together a range of agencies to deliver on a collective aim has the potential to be an enormous success and have a real impact on communities. However, just sitting a group of representatives around a table is not enough.
A number of key elements MUST be addressed, from the OUTSET if the multi-agency partnership has future and can make a difference long term.
The vision encapsulates the shared goals of all partners. It is a description of success and what it looks like. The vision must be explicit, measurable and owned by all.
Each meeting or monitoring activity must include an accurate review of progress towards this goal.
‘Sound methodologies must be used to set targets against key indicators and plans for achieving these are based on plausible actions’.
What this means is that it is no point having a wonderful and ambitious vision, without committing all the resources and activities to achievement of this goal. Results Based AccountabilityTM is entirely focussed on results, measurable results, impact. Therefore the strategy too must be outcome focussed and success measured by achievements towards the ultimate goal.
Multi-agency partnerships which degenerate into talking shops and focus too much on the process will not be successful.
‘Strategic leadership is provided by the partnership to make its own strategies and ensure these strategies are cascaded down to the individual objectives of its members.’
Unless the multi-agency partnership can quickly define itself as a leader in the progress of the shared priorities, it will lose credibility and partners will leave or make a challenge for power.
Effective leadership will demonstrate the value to individual members of being part of this group, clarifying the conditions of membership whilst accepting that members also need to be clear about how it will promote their individual aims.
Structure and accountability:
‘The partnership organises itself in a systematic, clear and accountable way. The partnership board is effective with members having the authority to speak for their organisation and there is a genuine community involvement through the members of the partnership.’
Without a proper structure and the right level of decision makers around the table, it is likely that the multi-agency partnership will become bogged down with cyclic discussions and no clear decision making. It will become one where the powerful agencies monopolise at the cost to community involvement.
‘Local strategies are monitored and evaluated as appropriate, to make sure they reflect the view of all sections of the community and findings fed back to partnership members.’
This is essential in the RBATM model. The impact on the community is the only measure of the success of the partnership. Unless this remains the focus, the partnership is likely to revert to service delivery led rather than led by the impact of these services.
‘The processes through which the partnerships operate are sound and efficient and transparent.’
Transparency is essential to the long term viability of any multi-agency partnership. Secrets and hidden agendas will impact on the credibility and ultimate success of partnership. Political wheeler-dealing should be resisted at all costs.
Affecting main stream services:
‘Regional strategic objectives are incorporated in mainstream services. This is demonstrated by changes in the use of mainstream funds, re-shaping of service delivery and joining up with other services to deliver agreed targets.’
Given the wholesale cuts to the public sector, ambitions around programme bending must be realistic. However, if the multi-agency partnership is effective in gathering information at a sub-regional/local level regarding the needs of the community, a case can be made for tailored delivery of services.
Joint working and partners changing in response to the partnership:
‘Local service providers are committed to changing local service delivery as a result of their participation in partnership (where appropriate)’
It is essential that the multi-agency partnership is able to demonstrate to its partners the value of sharing its collective aims. The partnership cannot enforce change. Individual members should be clear about how shaping their delivery benefits their organisation as well as the whole.
Capacity building neighbourhoods:
‘The partnership has taken steps to strengthen the capacity of the community to participate in the delivery of its objectives’.
Gone are the days of professionals ‘parachuting in’ to sort ‘communities out’. Referring back to the Results Based Accountability ModelTM and ‘the story behind the baseline’, the role of the partnership is to respond to the underlying issues and reasons for the issues and working with communities to change script and redirect the future.
Unless the capacity of communities can be increased, the change will be fleeting and as soon as the focus is removed the issues will return.
Community involvement therefore needs to be real participation, not tokenism (see Sherry Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation).
Monitoring, review and evaluation:
‘Local strategies are monitored and evaluated as appropriate, operational planning takes account of feedback and findings’.
The risk to multi-agency partnerships with a large number of public sector representatives is that it becomes driven along a path of service deliver, regardless of the outcomes.
Historically, public sector delivery has been delivery for the masses slow to respond to trends, or measure success by outcomes. The multi-agency partnerships must be a conduct for ongoing feedback and review and be confident to modify delivery to maximise impact.
To this end, the partnerships will be best served by a model of review such as the Results Based AccountabilityTM – performance accountability framework. This does not simply measure the number of people engaged, but reviews the quality of the engagement, and more importantly the impact.
These structures must be in place from the outset. Without a robust set of criteria and a measurement of success, a multi-agency partnership like any group is likely to be subject to Belbins forming, storming, norming and performing.
However, a framework of understanding will protect members, through the ‘storming stage’. Without it, many of the multi-agency partnerships which emerge with the best intentions will unravel before our eyes, and soon be destroyed or become moribund.
Empower SVS facilitates sessions on multi-agency partnership working. Click here for details.
"I have had nothing but praise for Bev the trainer and the course. Everyone loved it and it helped with the understanding of putting together the development plan no end. Thanks so much for such a fun day. Even the hardened professionals present enjoyed it - everyone felt that they had taken away a better understanding of what we should all be doing, so thank you again."
Maria Mielczarski Communities First 3.5.12
Empower delivers training in Results Based AccountabilityTM for a range of groups. Click here for details.
This entry was posted on Tuesday 29th May 2012.
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