Headlines: June 12th, 2007



The Partnership Improvement Programme developed by the Improvement and Development Agency and the voluntary sector will be rolled out to three regions of England this year, beginning this week. The process starts on Wednesday in the North East and will then move on to London and to the North West later this year.

It brings senior staff from local authorities together with leaders of local third sector organisations to look at ways in which they can work together more effectively. The roll out follows a pilot last year for the project, which is itself a partnership between the IDeA and the Institute for Voluntary Action Research. It is being funded by Capacitybuilders, which is providing 165,000 pounds for the roll out. A further 50,000 pounds is coming from the Office of the Third Sector.

The pilot revealed some of the difficulties and complexities working across the sector boundaries and showed that barriers and obstacles to partnership working identified in the pilot were shaped by local circumstances and local relationships. IDeA says that because each local authority area is complex and because there is great diversity between areas, it is not appropriate to impose uniform solutions for improvement. It believes the flexible approach of the Improvement Programme means local solutions can be identified and developed.

Each of the local authorities which is participating in the programme will produce a joint, cross-sector partnership improvement plan, which will provide the foundations for senior council staff and the third sector to respond constructively to the challenges of working in real partnerships.

Ben Cairns, the Director of the Institute for Voluntary Action Research, said the programme was an opportunity to move beyond the detail of cross-sector partnerships and to pay proper attention to the relationships, which were critical to 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,” he said.