With a general election just a week away and the sun finally shining, we’re feeling optimistic over at Collaborate HQ.

It’s been a busy few months launching our new Collaboration Academy and getting a big new programme of work off the ground with the Departments of Work and Pensions and Health and Social Care. We’ve been recruiting a new CEO to replace Anna when she steps down later this summer, welcomed three new starters (shout out to Onika, Grace, and Izzy!), and run a series of team and board strategy days (picture above!) We’ve also been contributing to the debates about the future of public services post-election, with Anna and our Chair, Lord Victor Adebowale, acting as advisors to the Demos Public Services Taskforce. It feels like there is more agreement than ever about what the future should look like, which the Taskforce report Liberated Public Services sets out well. The task for a new government is to help us all get there.

We are excited to be recruiting for our first standalone leadership programme, which will begin with its first cohort in the autumn. Drawing on our years of experience designing and facilitating leadership programmes for Solace, London Councils, Essex Partners, and others, Leading Change Together is designed for people from across public, private, voluntary, and community sector partners to learn together across places and sectors about how they can lead change from wherever they stand in their system. Grounded in ideas from complexity theory, systems change, and adaptive leadership and in the wisdom and experience of the participants, the interactive and participatory programme will offer participants new knowledge and skills, and the opportunity to apply them and reflect on how they relate to their own work. You can read more about our work in our recent MJ article here. We welcome people from all sectors, and if you would like to find out more or sign up, please do so here.

With two learning and development offers now in place—Leading Change Together and our ground-breaking Commissioning with Communities commissioning training offer—we have brought together these two programmes to create the Collaboration Academy. Commissioning with Communities is a practical and participatory development programme for commissioners who are fed up with approaches that don’t reflect the complex realities of the issues they’re trying to address—approaches that encourage siloed working and competition over collaboration and prioritise process over people.

You can choose to participate in the national versions of both of these programmes, or we can design bespoke local versions for specific places, as we have recently done in Sunderland, Westminster, and Surrey among others. Get in touch to find out more.

We have been delighted by the interest in our upcoming free event exploring what roles we need to create and sustain ‘healthy’, collaborative systems. On July 3rd, we will convene a group of ‘system stewards’ from civil society organisations to explore the role and practice of ‘systems stewardship’ – a person, organisation, or group that takes responsibility for nurturing a ‘healthy’ system. As we move towards the next shift in public services, focusing on building more joined-up, relational, and adaptive support and care, we believe there is a distinct and important role that is needed, to support collaboration across systems and places. We invite you to listen to system stewards reflect on the questions and aspects of stewardship that they are grappling with, and take the opportunity to discuss and reflect with peers. We welcome community activists, public service users and workers, civil society organisations, funders, and commissioners to join. You can sign up here.

We’ve had lots of great responses and appreciation for our recent myth-busting blog about what collaboration is and isn’t and what it takes to collaborate effectively. Written with particular reference to the new NHS partnership structures, we share our concern that collaboration in name but not substance risks wasting time, avoiding conflict that might be necessary and productive, and brushing over differences in perspective and power that could undermine effectiveness. However, there is a remedy, which is to reckon honestly with both the challenges and potential of real collaboration. One tip: if it feels easy, it’s probably not that deep! Get in touch if you need help making your partnership work better.

We’re pleased to be working on this new national programme to support 15 ICB-led local partnerships across the country to pilot new ways to support disabled people and people with health conditions back into work. We’re partnering with PA Consulting and Mutual Ventures to form a national support team, which will include providing tailored support to local places, running a learning network to help pilot areas develop their own approaches and learn from others, and creating toolkits to capture learning from the pilot to inform wider practice for the long term.

The next few months are likely to bring a moment of transition for the country post-general election and also for Collaborate as I step down later this summer. I think this is an exciting moment for a new CEO to take over, as we look ahead to the opportunities a new political era might bring. Collaborate expects to make an announcement about my successor in July. In the meantime, we will keep doing what we do best—working with our partners across the country to build collaborative public services, organisations, and leaders.

Do get in touch if you think we can help you, and in the meantime, we wish you a happy summer break!