How ready are we to collaborate?

The case for collaboration in today’s operating context is clear. Large-scale transformational agendas like devolution and NHS reform coupled with complex challenges, such as supporting people to live well into old age and achieving inclusive growth demonstrate the need to see a step change in collaboration between commissioners, providers and the public. But promises of collaboration for better outcomes are hollow without having readiness to do it. So, the question is — are we ready to do it?

That is what the Collaborate Foundation — Collaborate’s research arm — set out to explore in the first ever national survey of ‘collaboration readiness’, prepared with the assistance of Traverse. This new report ‘The State of Collaboration’ surveyed chief executives, directors and senior managers from public, private and third sector organisations (ranging from health care and education to transport and infrastructure), to assess the commitment and capacity of their organisation to deliver services collaboratively as a route to better outcomes.

The survey builds on Collaborate’s ‘Collaboration Readiness Index’, which sets out 6 key building blocks of successful collaboration: Citizens, Behaviours, Systems, Services, Places, and Markets.

This latest report provides a compelling argument that we have some way to go to match the rhetoric with reality when it comes to collaboration, but encouragingly the ambition to work in new ways is evident:

  • Respondents working in public services noted that they want to collaborate, but the current operating environment is inhibiting a collaborative model.
  • The findings suggest that one reason for the gap between ambition and practice is that people do not feel supported or incentivised to collaborate by their organisations or leaders, nor equipped with the tools they need to do it well.
  • The research shows that meaningful engagement with citizens is a crucial component to collaboration, but unfortunately one which continues to lag behind collaboration between other sectors. This suggests that although there is no shortage of resources and advocates for a more mature relationship with citizens across all sectors, the opportunity remains to be fully realised.

To complement this report, we hosted a roundtable with senior leaders from local government, health, foundations, the third sector and the private sector to discuss the findings and identify how we can use this as a document that stimulates change, and support sectors to consider their own collaboration readiness. A note from the roundtable can be found as an appendix in the report.

To find out more about the research please contact Fanny Olsson