Working in Partnership – concluding section 2

  1. Being there and waiting seemed vital for good partnership working. This could be tedious and frustrating, and it was often tempting to miss meetings that seemed to have so little purpose or outcome. It was sticking with it that led to new opportunities to arise for exercising effective influence. You began to see how your objectives could find a space in the thinking of people, and your presence and persistent listening gave you some credibility.
  2. How issues were framed became a key question in partnership work. For example, when problems were framed as concerning offenders, you would often have to struggle to command the attention of partner agencies who framed their problems differently, as the mentally ill, say, or the workless etc. To be effective, it was vital to be able to reframe the problems of offending as issues of economic regeneration, social exclusion, long term unemployment, substance misuse etc.
  3. You had to learn how organisational hierarchies impacted on how you worked with other agencies. Sometimes, you would be faced with apparent intransigence in resolving an issue simply because you were talking to someone who did not feel they had the authority in their organisation to move away from a set of regulations, or a standard set of answers.
  4. The best partnership workers had the ability to see the humanity of people working in all kinds of organisational contexts, and to communicate at a level that respects and values that. This may seem obvious but it is a crucial talent that not everyone possesses. It is all too easy to see the individual answering a prison telephone, a police officer or court official as just an official, and one who carries all the emotional baggage that we tend to have about large organisations. The prison telephonist is obstructive and bureaucratic because that is what the prison is like. The police officer is judgemental and not interested in the complexities or real life, because that is how we see the police. The Court official is bureaucratic, rule bound and uncooperative because that is how we feel about Courts.

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