Headlines: October 8th, 2004

The voluntary sector will be urged today to get a greater understanding of collaborative working to make the sector more effective and to improve services for beneficiaries. Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, will make the call when he launches a new service to enable voluntary organisations to work in partnership.The Collaborative Working Unit is designed to provide practical information so organisations can make informed decisions about whether and how to work collaboratively. The options range from the joint delivery of projects to sharing human resources and payroll functions.

The unit has been established following research carried out in 2002 that showed the need for a central source of advice and information on collaborative working and merger for voluntary organisations. The new service is based at the NCVO and is supported by the Baring Foundation, the Bridge House Trust and Lloyds TSB Foundation.

The Collaborative Working Unit will initially have two staff led by NCVO’s Collaborative Working Unit Manager, Kate Aldous. It will work with an independent Advisory Group of senior people from key partner agencies and voluntary organisations engaged in collaborative working. It aims to ensure that voluntary and community organisations are aware of the potential of collaborative working and to help them through the process of planning and running collaborative projects through its information and events.

At the launch today Stuart Etherington will say that greater understanding of collaborative working will make the voluntary sector even more effective as well as improving the services voluntary organisations provide. He will add, “Voluntary organisations are always looking for ways to save time and money and improve their efficiency. Collaborative working can be a way of doing this by combining the expertise, services and resources of two or more organisations.”

The Charity Commission is supporting the initiative. Its Chief Executive, Andrew Hind, said collaborative working had much to offer to the voluntary sector and he was sure such approaches would play a valuable part in helping the sector to maximise its potential and effectiveness.

The head of the charity Crisis, Shaks Ghosh, said it often worked with other organisations in order to ensure it could provide the best possible services for clients cost-effectively but he added, “Although working with other organisations can work well for both clients and Crisis, organisations should not feel pressured to merge for the sake of it. Merging is not always the solution.”