SECTION FIVE: PARTNERSHIP WORKING
CHR development is an exercise in partnership working. It requires the positive practice of compromise, openness, a shared vision and commitment. Equally, the process of CHR development has been seen to bring additional benefits for partners in terms of improved joint working and stronger relationships between housing providers.
An essential part of partnership working is ensuring trust between partners through equal and open relationships. Many CHR partnerships in Scotland have been led by the local authority as an inevitable consequence of high stock numbers, access to support funding and councils' strategic housing role. Regardless of whether the partnership is led by one organisation, it is important that, all partners are able to share their ideas and have a say in decisions as the CHR moves forward. It is helpful if this sense of equality and trust is supported by clear governance arrangements for your partnership. Governance options are discussed in more detail in Section Twelve: Governance.
The challenges of partnership working
Strong partnership working will enable the best decision-making for your CHR and allow the CHR to be delivered in a joined up way. However, it is important to recognise the significant challenges that can hinder partnership working and face these head on. Some common challenges facing all types of partnership include:
- Competition between organisations - although some competition between organisations can be motivating, excessive competition can result in an unwillingness to co-operate.
- Authority - it is important that all staff involved in partnership working have the necessary authority to take decisions. Lack of authority slows up decision making and frustrates progress.
- Purpose - the broad ranging responsibilities of partner organisations can mean that the specific objectives of the partnership can be forgotten. Also partnerships can often be overtaken by events and lose sight of their main function.
- Communication - it can be difficult to get the balance of communication right. Too many meetings can put partners off attending. Too little communication can result in duplication of effort, lack of understanding and mistrust amongst partners.
- Funding - there is a danger that some organisations get involved in partnership simply to access funding or to meet statutory requirements.
- Culture clash - when different organisations work together it can be difficult to adapt to each other's style of working. Each partner's expectations of partnership working may be different, which can lead to conflict when attempting to establish priorities and goals. The importance of this should not be underestimated.
- Time - the partnership working approach often takes longer to produce results than most organisations anticipate. For example, it takes time to develop trust between partners which can slow up the process of making decisions and using resources.
Find out more...
There is a wealth of material on the challenges of partnership working, and the best ways to negotiate these. A good place to start is the Improvement Network website ( http://www.improvementnetwork.gov.uk/imp/core/page.do?pageId=1068162) which focuses on partnership issues and includes a range of case study examples and toolkits (including a partnership checklist). ( http://www.improvementnetwork.gov.uk/imp/aio/11468)
The Improvement Network has also put together a list of the 'Top 10 Partnership Killers' and suggests solutions to avoid them happening - here. ( http://www.improvementnetwork.gov.uk/imp/aio/11465)
The Scottish Centre for Regeneration has produced a Joined Up Working How To Guide 9 which includes guidance esearch, toolkits and practice examples - and has particularly relevant sections on Joined Up Communication ( http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/regeneration/pir/resources/tools/JoinedUpWorkingHome/Themes/Communication) and Joined Up Organisational Development and Staffing. ( http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/regeneration/pir/resources/tools/JoinedUpWorkingHome/Themes/OrganisationDevelopment)
The CHR partnership
The first stage of developing the CHR is to identify your potential partners. It is important to involve all interested parties in the initial discussions about setting up a CHR, including all social landlords with stock in the area, and those with an interest in the CHR such as potential CHR users such as tenant representatives, voluntary organisations and advice agencies.
A key issue for any partnership is encouraging sufficient participation. Partnerships developing CHRs may experience resistance from some housing providers concerned about changing processes which they feel to be working well, or about loss of independence. Other providers may be reluctant to become involved if they have limited stock in the area or operate across a number of boundaries.
The Scottish Government's policy objective for CHRs is to ensure engagement of all social landlords in a given area. It is important that the reasons for any reluctance to participate are openly discussed - and that the objectives and potential benefits from the CHR are clearly communicated. For landlords with limited stock or operating across CHR boundaries, including regional and national landlords, CHRs should ensure that partners are fully aware of the different levels of involvement possible. These partnership options are outlined in Section Six: CHR Models and Options for Involvement.
Where the CHR partnership involves different levels of participation it is essential that there is effective communication and information sharing. If a CHR working group consists of core partners this group will be acting on behalf of the wider partnership. It is important that any 'arms length' housing providers or others that are taking a watching brief are kept informed about CHR development as it moves forward.
From an early stage there should be close links with existing multi-agency groups in the area to ensure a wider audience engages with the CHR development process. Those not involved in the core working group will be kept informed and have the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing development. This type of linkage with other initiatives will broaden involvement and strengthen the CHR partnership in the longer term.
Good leadership is essential to any successful partnership. CHR partnerships need to identify the appropriate lead officer(s) to take development of the CHR forward both before and after implementation. Lead officers should have good knowledge of allocation and CHRs, the local context and strong project management skills. Good leadership will ensure that there is effective communication between partners and continued dialogue where there are areas of disagreement.
Example: Ensuring wide involvement in the partnership
The CHR model for East Dunbartonshire was developed after consulting with the 14 landlords operating in the area, including national/regional RSLs and the Council. Some of the national/ regional landlords did not appear keen to become full partners so it was decided that the best approach would be move forward with the three main landlords, who held 91% of the stock, and then look at how the others might link in to the CHR. The full partners for the CHR are East Dunbartonshire Council ( EDC), Antonine Housing Association and Hillhead Housing Association 2000.
The CHR Coordinator held individual meetings with the national/ regional landlords that own stock in the area at the initial phase of development and has remained in contact as CHR development has moved forward. As the CHR moved closer to launch the partners sought to finalise arrangements for involving non-core partners. Two landlords, one national and one regional, said that they would be happy to accept 100% nominations.
Example: Good communication across the partnership
In Highland, effective communication is seen by the partners as being a crucial feature of the project's success - in its development stages, pre and post implementation. Early work for example focused on engaging RSL committee members, by means of presentations by the Council. This ensured consistent, direct communication and helped promote the benefits of a common approach to key decision makers in the process.
The engagement of front line staff in particular throughout the process has been important in embedding the new CHR approaches so quickly.
"When the principles are explained to people early on they can see the bigger picture - front line staff quickly appreciated the potential benefits to the man on the street."
"Anyone can plan something, but you need to front-line housing knowledge to make it work."