Why Evidence and Collaboration should go hand in hand

Simon McMahon, Senior Analyst at TSIP sets the scene for the upcoming ‘Evidence in Collaboration’ seminar, jointly hosted with Collaborate.

Over recent years, Britain’s public services have come under persistent pressure to change. Calls for more efficiency, better outcomes and reduced budgets have heralded the current push to deliver more for less. A definitive solution is yet to come, but in this context collaboration needs to be top of the agenda.

Often, the safety valve for a public sector under pressure has been to outsource to the private sector, with dynamism, business acumen and professionalism touted as justifications. And yet, outsourcing can be fraught with difficulty and controversy. A focus on economic benefit, a lack of accountability and creaming off profitable work whilst parking the most difficult are just some of the concerns raised.

Can collaboration across the sectors present a new approach to confronting these challenges? But what do we mean by collaboration? We promote the idea of bringing together organisations and groups from diverse backgrounds to work together in equal partnership. It needs policymakers and practitioners, commissioners and funders to be able to build and benefit from strong relationships and shared ways of working, which in turn demand openness to diverse values and working cultures. It needs shared goals, and should be aimed at ensuring social value and not only economic profit.

The challenge, however, is to know how to establish and maximise the benefit of collaborative relationships. The response will need to be evidence-based in two fundamental ways:

  1. It will need to look backwards and be based on an understanding of what has worked, or not worked, before. Such an understanding will show in which cases organisations from different sectors have worked together, the contexts which have been most conducive to them finding mutual benefits, and the implementation structures that are most effective.
  2. It will also need to look forwards and be able to build evidence over time of collaboration’s impact. This requires common measures of success, shared outcomes which all parties can work towards, and consistent measures gathered over time and learned from in the future.

Building an evidence base of this kind should be aimed at providing the groundwork for collaboration which has high levels of accountability and ensures maximum social value.

We look forward to exploring the challenges and possible responses further in three events which will mark the way to outlining an evidence-based approach to collaborative services and programmes. They will focus on collaboration in children and youth services, health and social care, and employment.  Join us on our journey to uncover the possibilities of a new approach to some of the most significant issues of our times.

The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) is an advisory social business specialising in innovation and evaluation, with a strong record of successful partnerships across the social, public and private sectors.  

To attend any events within this series or if you would like more information please email adelaide@collaboratei.com

Images taken from APlusPhysics.

Photo by jared

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