Research report 88 (October 2012)
This research project aimed to gain a greater understanding of third sector partnership working – both within and between sectors – which has been particularly crucial to the delivery of a wide range of public services. The research is based on five case studies of organisations involved in public service delivery in different policy fields, including housing, welfare, and employment services. These were preceded by a period of scoping research with national interviewees. The case studies were very diverse, and this paper synthesises the main findings across the cases in four logical sections: meanings of partnership; structures, drivers and barriers; processes and organisational change, and impacts of partnership. Some of the individual case studies are also available from links in the right hand column.
Despite some very different experiences, the research analysis raises common themes and question, including the complexity of partnership working, the importance of trust based relationships, the exclusion of user voice in setting objectives, and a lack of evidence around outcomes.
The case studies also begin to challenge some assumptions underlying the scaling up of third sector organisations to take a wider role in public service delivery. In particular the limits in scope for economies of scale in transactional and personal services where individual relationships are more important than systems in delivering outcomes for users.
The report offers key messages for policy and practice, including avoiding mandated partnerships, valuing economies of scope as well as scale, and focusing on outcomes for service users.
This research report builds on the extensive literature review reported in Working Paper 60
James Rees, David Mullins and Tony Bovaird