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Download the report - Are we Rallying Together? Collaboration and public sector reform

This report by the GO Lab looks at how local authorities are joining forces with their local communities to overcome complex social problems. It explores 10 cases across the UK to understand why authorities are choosing to collaborate, as well as how they are doing so. 

We also explore questions around what does success look like? Who is accountable when responsibilities are shared? How can we ensure we are getting value for tax payer money?

See below for a summary of our key findings and download our report to understand more. 

Key questions and findings

In our report we cover four main areas and here is a summary of what we found. You can read our full executive summary here 

1. Why collaborate? 

We found that collaboration has broad appeal as a solution to intractable social problems that we struggle to address as a society. These were that collaborating would:

  • share responsibility for financial and service delivery 
  • give the voluntary sector a more significant role in tackling complex social challenges 
  • deliver better overall impact and value 
  • make the public sector a better place to work 

2. What do collaborations look like? 

We built a typology for collaboration that we use to categorise the different sites. These are: 

  • collaborative councils - they are broad programmes of change 
  • collaborative markets - they aim to change the markets from competitive to collaborative 
  • agents of change - they sit outside the public sector and attempt to change from the outside in.
  • system connectors - they aim to better integrate public and voluntary sector by leveraging resources without making fundamental changes

3. How is collaborative working ingrained? 

We share four ingredients have emerged from our work as key to determining the success of a collaborative effort. These are:

  • New leadership that is not based on hierarchy but is inclusive and equal
  • A more trusting culture where frontline workers can make their own judgements rather than simply following protocol
  • Change in infrastructure, such as co-locating and shared use of data 
  • A different conversation with communities, moving from 'what can we do for you?' to 'what would you like to be able to do? what resources you got and what are the gaps? 

4. Demonstrating success and ensuring accountability 

We looked at how to measure success of collaborations. We found that the notion of measurement and target-setting was contentious, but providing learning and feedback were essential. Collaborations looked at alternative methods of performance measurement, such as bottom-up and place-based measures.

Measuring accountability was hugely important, but the jury is still out on whether collaborative approaches enhance or diminish democratic accountability. There were different preferences for measuring accountability, these were:

  • Results - accountability for collaboratively defined targets
  • System-health - accountability for a well-functioning service system 
  • Outcomes - accountability for client outcomes 
  • Narratives - sense making tool for understanding how and why things have/have not worked
  • Community reporting - accountability for delivering on collaboration and community promises

As with any research we found that by the end we had more questions than answers. We are keen to look at how we embed collaborative practice that is reliant and effective, what is the right way to engage citizens, and much more. Read our report to explore more.