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Partnership working

Understanding collaborative working
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Understanding collaborative working

Partnerships or collaborations between organisations in the public, private and voluntary sectors can bring numerous benefits. They can create new opportunities, better services and can help to develop sustainability for projects. As ever, they don’t come without their challenges though. Deciding whether partnership working is right for you needs careful consideration.

Forms of collaborative working

Collaborative working can take many forms. Some of the most common examples are:

  • consortiums
  • mergers
  • group structures
  • shared back office arrangements
  • peer learning.


There are different challenges involved with establishing successful partnerships. Some of the challenges involve:

  • ensuring collaboration doesn’t prioritise the form of partnership over the purpose.
  • allocating sufficient time to decide what the collaboration sets out to achieve and to developing formal collaborative working arrangements
  • although interest in peer-learning as a form of collaboration is growing, lack of day to day time and resources make it difficult for organisations to engage in it.

More about the research

Our Working in Partnership sourcebook, originally published in 2002, might be old but it still includes some useful considerations. It identifies some of the questions you need to ask yourself and frameworks for approaching working in partnership.

  • More recently, in 2011 we commissioned IVAR to:
    • review the external context for collaborations and partnerships
    • identify areas where our policies and practice at Big Lottery Fund might be sustained or improved to better support collaboration.
  • In 2014 or Building Capabilities scoping study led by the Third Sector Research Centre was asked to explore what internationally published evidence has to say about building partnerships’ capabilities. It found that there is little to prove what works in developing their skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver services more sustainably and effectively in terms of evidence of benefits to end-users. It does however helpfully set out and explore many of the challenges faced by partnerships, in particular those posed by lack of capacity (resources) and by complex dynamics among the partners. It also points to the skills and knowledge (capabilities) that catalysts of partnerships (like funders or commissioners) may need, to be able to discern whether partnership working is going to be viable and what kinds of support (both capacity and capabilities) are likely to be needed to improve its chances of success.


Supporting collaboration and partnerships in a changing context report
Working in Partnership: A sourcebook [Please note: if you are applying to us for funding you should refer to any relevant application guidance notes for specific and current partnership information]
Working in Partnership: A good practice guide

Capability building

Building capabilities in the voluntary sector: A summary of what the evidence tells us (Summary report)
Building Capabilities in the Voluntary Sector: What the evidence tells us (Full report)
Building Capabilities in the Voluntary Sector: What the evidence tells us (Market review - Ancillary report)
Building capabilities in the voluntary sector: A summary of what the evidence tells us (Partnerships - Ancillary report)