A need or a necessity?
In children’s development, organizational partnerships—such as those between education, health services, media, etc.—need to work together as a coherent team so that children receive services in alignment rather than in fragments from different organizations. The classical solution of creating multi-organizational committees is no longer sufficient for dealing with the complexities of children’s needs. Organizations need to develop new processes and subsets of their organizational structure to manage the flow and perform their duties well for the children.
When partnerships are formed, nourished, and maintained, they have the potential of improving the quality of service, increased access to resources, and speed in decision making (Borzsony and Hunter, 1996).
Who is involved?
Let’s take a look at some of the key objectives we all have for children and see who needs to work in partnership effectively in order to meet that objective:
|Key objective||Description||Organizational partnerships|
|1. Being healthy||Ensuring physical and mental health and wellbeing.||Education, Health, Media, Family services|
|2. Staying safe||Protecting children from abuse and neglect and teaching children how to protect themselves.||Education, Health, Social services, Police, Media, Family services|
|3. Enjoying and achieving||Having access to educational resources and developing to the fullest potential.||Education, Social services, Economy, Media, Family services|
|4. Citizenships and making positive contributions||Understanding their role in giving back to the community and staying away from offending or harming others.||Education, Social services, Economy, Media, Family services|
|5. Economic well-being||Overcoming socio-economic challenges and achieving their fullest potential.||Education, Social services, Economy, Media, Family services|
Table 1: Aligning objectives for children with needed organizational partnerships adapted from Moriceau, Brown et al. (2009)
Could this new framework be ‘a’ solution?
Similarly, the Nurturing Care Framework (2018) presents a ground-breaking framework that outlines the roles and responsibilities of the different sectors and stakeholders that need to work together to serve the child.
Figure 1: Source: Nurturing Care Framework https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272603/9789241514064-eng.pdf.
Let’s take an example to showcase why these partnerships are so important.
In every community, we want our children to be safe from abuse. Well, to achieve the “staying safe” goal, law enforcement organizations investigate child abuse concerns. However, it is the role of social workers to look after children in vulnerable conditions and the responsibility of mandated reporting organizations such as education and health to report concerns to law enforcement (Moriceau, Brown et al., 2009). The roles of educational and family service organizations are vital to help teach children how to protect themselves. This includes learning the difference between good touch vs. bad touch, secrets, and how to talk to adults when they need help.
All these different professionals from these organizations need to be working as a team around the child, rather than the child receiving disconnected services from different organizations.
Best Practices in Establishing Partnerships between Organizations
1) Give them an equal voice
Partnerships should be equal, not in the sense of skill, knowledge, or experience, but in the ability to share opinions and provoke discussions (Borzsony and Hunter, 1996). When it comes to protecting children, different partners can bring diverse viewpoints to the conversation without necessarily having similar power, skill, or knowledge in the child protection field.
By bringing partners together and allowing them to share in the decision-making process, decisions are made more quickly and then carried out with better quality because each party has a role to play (Borzsony and Hunter, 1996).
2) Use a system to manage resources among partners
Now more than ever before, we need to share our resources, not only to thrive, but in many cases to survive. We need to be open about what resources we have and then find ways to share with other agencies. Everyone has a strength, and that goes not only for individuals but for organizations as well.
Total Quality Multi Agency Provision (TQMAP) has been researched to be a possible strategy for establishing multi-organizational partnerships (Rounthwaite 1994). TQMAP is can be established with two or more organizations to coordinate, manage and implement their combined experience and resources (Rounthwaite 1994).
A practice suggested by Kaehne and Catherall (2003) was co-location between organizations. Co-location is a technique that starts with relocating some of the staff from one organization, in the partner organization, and vise versa. Co-location (Kaehne and Catherall, 2013) goes beyond relocating desks to emphasizing the need to create new multi-agency practices and single referral systems for parents and children.
3) Involve the private sector, wisely
A study conducted in New Zealand found seven successful private public partnerships that were focused on addressing societal problems (Lee, 2011). Lee recommends involving the business sector as a partner as it leads to sharing expertise and resources across sectors and learning from best practices that could greatly enhance the performance of the project. Lee also sets the standards on how to select the right business sector partner:
First, it is important to examine the motivation for the business’ involvement. Researchers have argued the relationship between motivation and attitude of an organization and the effect that has on the behavior and actions of a particular business (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1997). In order to benefit from the partnership, an organization could try to mask their underlying motivation and potential competing interest with the other organization. On the other hand, Lee argues that with globalization and changing structures of government and private organizations, it would be unfair to claim that private organizations are only ever in business for economic benefit. By leaning on business organizations, government organizations may be in a better position to be able to influence social change within society (Lee, 2011).
Second, Lee recommends that in order to build a successful partnership with a private organization, it is important to focus on achieving a win-win relationship for both parties. Whereas the government organization is usually benefiting from the expertise, or capacity building, it is important for the business sector organization to benefit more than just having the privilege of being involved. Partners that do not feel valued will not contribute whole-heartedly to the project.
4) Involve the individual (parents and children)
Researchers have also examined the effectiveness of involving the end-users, specifically the parents of children these services help, as a stakeholder in the partnership-building process.
Kaehne and Catherall (2003) conducted a research about the effectiveness of the input gathered from parents of children with special needs during the time that the government was building a new co-service partnership between the education and social services organizations. They found that these parents were passionate, and some were more vocal than others, and it was not clear if they had sufficient knowledge of the service structure and the processes for their comments to be useful to the project. However, they also found that parents had clear understandings of the needs of their children and that one-to-one interviews were more useful than conducting more broad user satisfaction surveys.
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