15 SES 04, Collaboration with the Community
Parallel Paper Session
Christensen and Laegrid (2011: 11) identify a dilemma facing policy makers in a number of countries worldwide, especially those that underwent New Public Management (NPM) reforms, that engagement with complex and interrelated social issues is increasingly prioritised but this requires overcoming the consequential administrative challenges in joining up services. Collaboration, partnerships and networks are an increasing feature of social policy internationally yet these initiatives have often been problematic (refs). A prominent feature of this post-NPM wave of reform is the utilisation of leadership and cultural change processes to facilitate collaboration however the relationship between collaboration, culture and leadership is under-researched (Christensen and Laegrid 2011: 18, 24).
This research engages with the international trend towards leadership and cultural change in facilitating collaboration in the public sector by exploring the institutionalisation of collaboration in children’s services in England through the formation of the children’s trusts and the associated leadership and cultural change processes.
New Labour articulated a comprehensive and persuasive discourse that identified collaboration and joined-up working as efficacious in engaging with ‘wicked’ issues and improving outcomes for all children. However the instrumental role allocated to collaboration necessitated institutionalising effective inter-professional collaboration in practice in children’s and young people’s services. By the release of the Children’s Plan in 2007 (DCSF 2007) the government had introduced series after series of legislation, reforms and initiatives. The Children’s Plan stated that ‘the means to make collaboration work in practice’ (DCSF 2007: §7.12) were now in place and the government tasked senior managers in children’s services with driving cultural change to facilitate collaboration at the frontline.
The intention of this research was to look at how collaboration was articulated and then assembled to understand how issues in how collaboration is researched and framed in policy led to challenges for policy makers and senior managers in implementing policy. The relationship between articulation and assemblage encourages the analysis to explore how collaborative working was constructed in policy and the tensions, absences and contradictions within this articulation when it came to assembling the components to help professionals collaborate, within the broader context of New Labour’s public sector reforms. The issue the research was seeking to explore was if, as is known, there a lack of clarity about what collaboration is in policy (e.g., Davies 2009) and research (e.g., Easen et al 2004) what does this mean for attempts to facilitate collaboration at the frontline? Furthermore, what are the implications of seeking to engage with collaboration through the lens of leadership and cultural change that are managerialist approaches?
The primary research question was: How can a local authority facilitate processes of inter-professional collaboration?
Christensen, T. and Laegrid, P. (2011) ‘Post-NPM Reforms: Whole of Government Approaches as a New Trend’, in S. Van de Walle and S. Groeneveld, (Eds.) New steering concepts in public management, Bingley, UK: Emerald, pp. 11-24. Davies, J.S. (2009) ‘The Limits of Joined-up Government: Towards a Political Analysis’, Public Administration, Vol. 87, No. 1, pp. 80-96. Department for Children, Schools and Families (2007) The Children’s Plan: Building Brighter Futures, London: The Stationery Office. Easen, P. et al. (2000) ‘Inter-professional Collaboration and Conceptualisations of Practice’, Children and Society, 14, pp. 355–367. Yin, R.K. (2009) Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Los Angeles, Calif.: Sage Publications.
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