Ahead of our event ‘Young people influencing decisions about what matters to them’, Emma Giles, Inspection Wales Programme Manager, has blogged for us about collaborative working between the inspectorates and the reviews that are being undertaken around support for young people in Wales.
Collaborative working is challenging, and from my experience, being effective requires all partners to be equally engaged in setting the aims and the team needs to work to common goals, with a shared methodology, and be open to working across organisational boundaries. For me, there are several factors to consider when undertaking a joint project, from planning and resourcing the project to engendering the culture needed to successfully deliver a collaborative project.
Planning the work
- From the outset, there needs to be a robust, clearly defined and well understood process for moving from identifying potential options for collaborative working through to developing detailed scope and methods and producing final outputs. All partners must be equally engaged in developing the process and ‘signed up’ to it.
- To be successful, collaborative working requires staff from across partners to agree and work to a common scope and shared methodology. Albeit, individuals should also where appropriate be enabled to work within their own area of expertise.
- Each partner does not need to contribute in the same way to a collaborative piece of work. Rather, the planning phase should identify the relative contribution each partner can make, and this might involve partners taking on different roles. For example, one partner might lead the fieldwork, and another be involved in sense checking emerging findings.
- It needs to be recognised that getting a collaborative piece of work ‘off the ground’ is time consuming due to its challenging nature. For example, securing agreement on scope across organisations that may well have different priorities, legislative remits and resourcing constraints. Therefore, planning for such projects needs to start well in advance of any scheduled fieldwork dates.
Resourcing the work – people and money
- Collaborative work should not be an add-on to the ‘day job’ but needs to be planned into the work programmes of relevant staff.
- Committing resources to all stages of the project lifecycle from identifying potential options for joint review to producing the final output (whether that is a report or other product) requires up front agreement from senior staff across the partner organisations.
- Continuity of staff is vital to ensure that momentum and understanding of the project is not lost through staff turnover. Where responsibilities must change hands, there must be effective handover arrangements.
- A steering group is likely to be prove useful but must comprise staff empowered to make decisions.
The culture underpinning the work
- All partners must be equally committed to the collaboration and individuals must be open to sharing their own expertise and listening to the views of colleagues from across all partners.
- From the outset, there needs to be honest conversations about respective organisational practices and resources and the constraints these might impose, together with a clear and agreed upon approach to addressing any such constraints.
But the key, it appears to me, is that successful collaborative working requires what have been called ‘process management skills’, ‘such as the ability to identify and develop a shared agenda and forge coalitions’, in addition to expertise in the topic area.
Notwithstanding the challenging nature of collaborative working, Inspection Wales partners have over the last 18 months or so been working together to review the support available for young people. My August 2017 blog, Inspection Wales partners begin joint work on support for young people, sets out the background behind why Inspection Wales undertook its first joint thematic review around the topic of young people, and the proposed scope of the four pieces of work on services for young people being undertaken by Inspection Wales partners. Since then, Estyn has published its review of youth work. The Wales Audit Office, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) and Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) will publish their respective reports in the spring of 2019.
I won’t pretend the journey has been straightforward, but we have now arrived at a good place with GPX events planned for March and discussions ongoing to identify and communicate common messages emerging from all four pieces of work. Despite looking at different areas within the topic of support for young people, we have found several common threads. We are now considering the most effective way to communicate those common messages. Inspection Wales is also very much looking forward to the GPX events in March. The partners have all been involved in the scoping for this event, and we are very enthusiastic about the theme of young people having influence over decisions about what matters to them.