Partnership working is increasingly seen as the way to generating solutions to problems that single agencies cannot solve, improving services that users receive, and enhancing coordination of services across organisational boundaries. But research by CPCR, a consultancy specialising in developing partnerships suggests that up to 70 per cent of partnerships fail to deliver their intended outcomes.
The research identified the key drivers of this failure as issues of trust and deteriorating relationships. 90 per cent of respondents reported that in many cases partners place insufficient significance on the building of relationships within the partnership and often revert to adverse behaviours which result in the partnerships’ objectives not being met. A major weakness is that partner organisations often under estimate the time it takes to establish and develop strong relationships.
Partnerships that have a pre-agreed method to identify and tackle issues before they arise are the ones that are in a much stronger position to survive.
Other research identified the disquiet of elected members of councils with partnerships. They feel that they have ceded too much power of decision to external bodies. The emphasis on partnership working and the growth of quangos is seen to have downgraded the role of local authorities.
There were particular concerns expressed around the lack of accountability of other partners on external bodies, that public-private partnerships both local and regional were weighted in favour of unelected, private-sector participants, and that voluntary and community sector organisations were setting up alternative democratic processes.