Reflections by a local development worker on the challenges of encouraging and supporting community interest in developing, designing and delivering effective, local solutions in partnerships.
Dawn Brown, Garioch Partnership, reflects on community-led solutions within multi-layered partnership working.
Note: these reflections were first published in the Multi-layered Partnership Working report co-produced by Aberdeenshire CPP partners and What Works Scotland.
My key reflections from this report
- Everyone is challenged by Christie – multi-agency working will be difficult until structures and policies change to enable cross-agency working and information sharing.
- Using evidence to support spending decisions on preventative approaches may not happen as given tightening budgets for services, decisions to divert spend become hard to make/justify however, we shouldn’t shy away from these conversations.
- There is sometimes a mismatch between strategic plans to work across boundaries and understanding at a delivery level of how that can actually happen.
- The move towards more community influence on budgets, e.g. local government reforms and participatory budgeting, can see money being spent meeting local needs in more preventative, cross-cutting ways, and targeted on local good practice.
- There are no easy, quick fixes. There are issues of equality across sectors, and sometimes a view that communities and third sector can deliver free or cheap alternatives to statutory service.
Moving towards genuinely community-led approaches
As we become more aware that the underlying cause is rarely one-dimensional, and therefore needs a multi-faceted approach to be managed effectively, collaboration is essential for responsive services that are fit for purpose.
In my experience, local creative approaches make a difference, with people feeling engaged and able to influence but we are still guilty across agencies of confusing consultation with different stages on Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation, and often ‘badge’ information giving as consultation after decisions and priorities have been set. The power debate about controlling budgets and obligations to deliver services will continue but local government reform and the Community Empowerment Act will move power down to locally accountable levels which is good for increasing collaboration and improving performance.
We need to encourage and support community interest in developing, designing and delivering effective, local solutions in partnership with agencies, or as an alternative delivery method. There is definitely desire within communities to be part of this, but we do need caution that it is not just the already empowered, and continue to support effective capacity and skill building, to ensure that we are not widening gaps that exist. By placing more relevance on local research and supporting people to find ways to capture impact, but without burdening people with difficult processes to manage on top of delivering effective services, we can effectively evidence change.
First published in the Multi-layered Partnership Working report co-produced by Aberdeenshire CPP partners and What Works Scotland.