Today sees the launch of Collaborate (www.collaboratei.com), a community interest company set up to promote effective and sustainable collaboration between the public, business and social sectors with the ambitious but determined goal of securing no less than a paradigm shift in social outcomes, building sustainable communities and fostering a strong civil society.
And the Public Management and Policy Association is moving from CIPFA to Collaborate.
Collaborate will be a hub of new ideas, ground breaking policies and leading-edge practice; a centre of leadership and skills development; and a forum for conversation, debate and problem-solving between the business, social and public sectors. I am the founding director. We will challenge orthodoxy and institutional comfort zones - seeking to push the boundaries in order to identify the best ways of securing better outcomes for citizens and communities.
Collaborate is determined to exemplify 'collaborative' behaviours in all that we do. It has been created by practitioners from the business, social and public sectors; and fittingly, is sponsored by organisations from the three sectors. It follows that our strategy will be determined by the Collaborate Council comprising high-profile leaders from the three sectors, and that our programmes and projects will be co-designed and co-produced by practitioners from the three sectors.
We believe strongly that collaboration should be value based, and where public money and/or services for the public are involved, there should be effective accountability. Independent of vested interests, we will seek to ensure that all our programmes are evidence-based, and to that end, partnering with and based at London South Bank University, Collaborate will work with practitioners, academics and policymakers across the UK and internationally.
Why is Collaborate so timely?
The potential benefits of cross-sector collaboration are increasingly recognised as critical to addressing many of otherwise contemporary intractable social, environmental and economic challenges. This is neither a new trend nor a consequence of austerity and financial pressures, any more than it is ideologically driven. Rather, it is a trend that has been with us for some time and is likely only to accelerate over the coming years.
Collaboration is a means to an end and will not always be the most appropriate approach to adopt. Equally, genuine collaboration is neither about outsourcing nor about one organisation dictating to another. Rather, it is about sharing and ceding control and resources to secure better outcomes. 'Collaboration' challenges the myopic view that only markets and competition, or only the public sector can deliver better outcomes. It can and should involve service users, staff and a range of stakeholders with a focus on outcomes rather than processes, sectors, egos or institutions.
Many policy makers and commentators advocate partnerships and collaboration - and many practitioners also acknowledge that it can add value. However, as ever, theory is easier than practice. All too often, the obstacles to effective collaboration are as much, if not more due to inappropriate or ill-developed behaviours and cultures than systems and processes.
We need to improve practice and equip practitioners to understand each other; to communicate and listen to each other; and to adopt behaviours that will foster effective collaboration. Above all, we need to challenge bad and ill-informed, short-sighted behaviours.
Collaborate has been established to address these and related issues - in a manner that no other body is currently doing.
So why is PMPA becoming part of Collaborate?
A year ago, when CIPFA was reluctantly forced to withdraw its financial support to PMPA , the PMPA Board acknowledged that the only alternative to closure was, effectively, a transfer to a like-minded partner organisation.
To this end, the PMPA Board and CIPFA sought a partner who would be a good steward of the PMPA brand and values, prepared to engage with the same kind of programme and protect the 'public square', where public managers and policy-makers can come together, debate and share experience and ideas.
Collaborate has committed to continue a series of programmes based on the PMPA model. Specifically, through 'PMPA in alliance with Collaborate', we will organise a series of public lectures and seminars on contemporary policy and practice issues; and build on the cross-sector collaboration which has been PMPA's outstanding hallmark for over two decades.
As a long-standing member of PMPA, I recognise the Association's special contribution to the development of policy and practice; and the high regard in which it is held by leaders and practitioners from across the public, social and business sectors as well as academia. Collaborate is committed to building on PMPA's high standards and reputation.
I am also pleased to note as a vote of their confidence that CIPFA has kindly agreed to Collaborate using its premises for events in the PMPA tradition.
As the founding director of Collaborate, I am very excited by what I believe is an excellent fit between our new organisation and PMPA. I am equally confident that Collaborate will play an increasingly significant role in shaping public policy, public services and a delivering that paradigm shift in social outcomes towards building sustainable communities and fostering a strong civil society.
I very much hope that you and others will join us in our quest - let's collaborate!