Building partnerships between music organisations and care organisations: partnership practice for looked after children and music

  • by Anonymous (not verified)

    Wednesday, 16 September, 2015 - 16:02

In all of the projects and programmes with music and looked after children that this resource pack is based on, partnership is a critical element. In music-making work with looked after children, very rarely can one person or organisation bring in all of the relevant expertise, skills, capacity and creativity more effectively than two or more, each with their own key contribution. So partnership building - and partnership maintaining - are critical.

The visualisation below - 'the partnership working table' - describes 13 tasks in partnership working, why they're important, what they entail and some examples of how they've worked in practice. Click on the dots for more information.

Waypointwaypoint/strategic-partnerships-organisational-principlesStrategic partnerships: the organisational principles774.5143.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/13-tasks-partnership-working13 Tasks in partnership working397.5499.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/13-tasks-partnership-working13 Tasks in partnership working397.5499.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-taking-stock-importantWhy taking stock is important479.5817.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-taking-stock-might-entailWhat taking stock might entail411.5831.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/taking-stock-illustrations-practiceTaking stock: illustrations from practice353.5839.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-attending-systems-importantWhy attending to systems is important240.5458.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-attending-systems-might-entailWhat attending to systems might entail178.5441.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/attending-systems-illustrations-practiceAttending to systems: illustrations from practice137.5429.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-doing-your-research-importantWhy doing your research is important450.5771.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-doing-your-research-might-entailWhat doing your research might entail363.5788.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/doing-your-research-illustrations-practiceDoing your research: illustrations from practice301.5813.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-creating-interest-importantWhy creating interest is important389.5729.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-creating-interest-might-entailWhat creating interest might entail307.5755.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/creating-interest-illustrations-practiceCreating interest: illustrations from practice248.5781.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-developing-understanding-importantWhy developing understanding is important278.5654.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-developing-understanding-might-entailWhat developing understanding might entail219.5686.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/developing-understanding-illustrations-practiceDeveloping understanding: illustrations from practice182.5707.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-attending-structures-importantWhy attending to structures is important236.5546.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-attending-structures-might-entailWhat attending to structures might entail168.5552.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/attending-structures-illustrations-practiceAttending to structures: illustrations from practice125.5555.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-investing-resources-importantWhy investing resources is important287.5373.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-investing-resources-might-entailWhat investing resources might entail227.5346.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/investing-resources-illustrations-practiceInvesting resources: illustrations from practice179.5322.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-modelling-integrity-and-trust-importantWhy modelling integrity and trust is important430.5293.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-modelling-integrity-and-trust-might-entailWhat modelling integrity and trust might entail426.5229.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/modelling-integrity-and-trust-illustrations-practiceModelling integrity and trust: illustrations from practice424.5181.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-thinking-integration-importantWhy thinking integration is important589.5368.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-thinking-integration-might-entailWhat thinking integration might entail639.5321.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/thinking-integration-illustrations-practiceThinking integration: illustrations from practice671.5293.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-addressing-staffing-change-importantWhy addressing staffing change is important647.5455.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-addressing-staffing-change-might-entailWhat addressing staffing change might entail701.5421.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/addressing-staffing-change-illustrations-practiceAddressing staffing change: illustrations from practice742.5397.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-communicating-importantWhy communicating is important659.5545.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-communicating-might-entailWhat communicating might entail720.5533.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/communicating-illustrations-practiceCommunicating: illustrations from practice771.5521.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-improvement-and-learning-importantWhy improvement and learning is important643.5594.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/why-improvement-and-learning-important-0Why improvement and learning is important705.5601.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/improvement-and-learning-illustrations-practiceImprovement and learning: illustrations from practice758.5602.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/exercise-leadershipExercise leadership613.5645.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/what-exercising-leadership-might-entailWhat exercising leadership might entail681.5665.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/exercising-leadership-illustrations-practiceExercising leadership: illustrations from practice728.5681.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/practical-guide-music-making-looked-after-childrenA practical guide for music making with looked after children15.51.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/do-your-researchDo your research543.5749.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/create-interestCreate interest467.5681.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/develop-understanding-relationships-motivationDevelop understanding, relationships, motivation283.5595.6""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/invest-resourcesInvest resources324.5425.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/model-integrity-and-trustModel integrity and trust468.5361.2""#0000002
Waypointwaypoint/improvement-and-learning-partnershipsImprovement and learning in partnerships570.5608.2""#0000002

In all of the projects and programmes with music and looked after children that this resource pack is based on, partnership is a critical element. In music-making work with looked after children, very rarely can one person or organisation bring in all of the relevant expertise, skills, capacity and creativity more effectively than two or more, each with their own key contribution. So partnership building - and partnership maintaining - are critical.

The visualisation below - 'the partnership working table' - describes 13 tasks in partnership working, why they're important, what they entail and some examples of how they've worked in practice. Click on the dots for more information.

Click here for a text version of this visualisation

Strategic partnerships: the organisational principles

There are three levels of partnership at play in projects promoting musical activity with children and young people:
• the partnership with any national funding agency e.g. Youth Music or Sing Up. In
this, a relationship that develops well between the funder and the grant-receiving partner can be enhanced by conscious fostering of a learning relationship between all other such partners in a ‘community of practice’.
▪ the local partnership between the music organisation, the local authority's Children
and Young People's Service and other strategic partners e.g. Independent Fostering Services
▪ the manifestation of this partnership 'on the ground' involving co-working between
'operational staff': musicians, care staff, social workers, CYPS administrators and foster carers

In this resource we do not designate the children and young people participating in the project as partners (though some would). Rather we leave a discussion of the active involvement of these young people in both design, delivery and evaluation to illustration of 'The rights of children to be heard' (Artistic Pedagogue Principle 6).

David Price and partnerships in music-making
David Price  writing in Music and the Power of Partnerships (2008) drew on his experience of large-scale partnership projects – especially running Musical Futures – to derive a list of four main factors that need to be present to create the right environment for collaborative innovation.  They are:
• A  culture where honest, respectful but self-critical debate is actively sought and valued
• A risk-taking attitude
• A willingness to change
• An acceptance of initial ignorance – that is, projects in a truly innovative collaboration can’t know at the outset what their outputs and
outcomes might be.

Partnerships that meet these innovation-enhancers, says Price, would demonstrate qualities of sharing, openness and inclusivity, a freedom of ideas, and a no-blame culture of trust: this latter, he says, was difficult to inculcate completely in Musical Futures, where a couple of partners were reluctant to admit when mistakes had been made, for fear of consequences (it’s possible, indeed, that a no-blame culture is more difficult to engender in a partnership than in a single organisation).

Finally, Price offers a set of “pre-requisites” for successful partnerships:
• Is there a clearly identified problem which needs fixing by coming together? Simply
‘working together’ is not enough.
• The problem must not have a solution which can be achieved by any one
organisation – otherwise someone ought to have fixed it by now.
• Each partner may have differing levels of contribution, but they must all have an
equal commitment to the need for a partnered solution.
• Partnership isn’t a spectator sport – each partner needs to have a clearly identified
  role to play. But it isn’t a competitive sport either – no jockeying for position.
• The needs of young people (rather than the needs of  a partner’s provision) should
be the driving force: how will it be reflected in practice?

13 Tasks in partnership working

This partnership working table identifies 13 Tasks in Partnership Working. While some - Task 1 and Task 2 for example – come at an obvious place in the sequence, most of the others are iterative, needing to be addressed at different times during the life of the partnership, each time informed by greater learning from experience.

While the illustrations come from the experience of music projects working with statutory, private or third sector organisations working with looked after children, the principles are probably generic. We suggest you regard this selection of tasks as ‘theory in use’, that you will test it rigorously against your own experience and rewrite them in order to build your own theory of partnership working in this field.

Why taking stock is important

‘Taking stock’ is often overlooked in the rush to action. Taking stock of:
• Your motivation for exploring both the area of work and the idea of working with potential partners
• The current state of play in your organisation
• Prevent wasted time chasing rainbows
• Prevent mission drift through pursuing resource-led strategy as opposed to needs-led strategy
• Provide a firm organisational foundation for moving ahead

What taking stock might entail

Take time
• On your own; or
• With a mentor; or, perhaps preferably,
•  with your senior team

a. Examine how the area of work e.g. music with looked after children, relates to your organisation’s longer term strategic plan – or is it just a chance to pursue funding?
b. Do a SWOT analysis:
c. Reflect on who would be 'the right organisations to partner with – the right sections in CYPS? Relevant independent fostering agencies? Voluntary organisations?

Taking stock: illustrations from practice

'Three years ago we'd taken on a  partnership project simply to chase the money and it  had backfired.We’d got the money but had underestimated our capacity to deliver and so had quite a stressful six months! We learned from it but it took us down a path that distracted us from more important work and it didn’t lead anywhere. (Project Manager)

We do a SWOT analysis once a year on an away day. We involve all our core staff and our main freelancers and this year two member of the Board which was good. It gives me a sense of security - even if there are usually some challenging findings- because we’re getting all different perspectives out in the open. One of the main developments from this year’s exercise was the need to strengthen our links with agencies working with those at ‘elevated risk’ as it seems to be called now. We’d responded to several one-off or short-term projects and our staff had shown themselves capable and wanted to do more, and so, with the help of a Board member, we’ve started being more proactive in this area. (Project Manager)

We did this stakeholder analysis at one staff meeting using a tool one of us had found on the web ( It opened up areas we don’t normally get round to talking about. As a result I sought out meetings with two organisations which I’d been aware of but never really gone after. They’ve both opened up exciting new possibilities in this area of work.

Why attending to systems is important

Having got the right people involved it is important to build them into a productive unit by ensuring that meetings are:
• Well-planned
• Well-conducted
• Enjoyable
• Creative
• Efficient
• Leading to  mutually understood and agreed action

What attending to systems might entail

Once round the table, show you are organised but not rigid. It may be the first time these people have met each other, particularly in this context. You may have good relationships with each but building bilateral and collective relationships across the partnership is of the utmost importance. Perhaps at least a round of introductions and hopes and fears for the project. Perhaps get people talking in pairs or threes. It is important that everyone feels significant and involved early on.

Consider a collective visualisation:
a.'how will looked after young people, carers, staff and managers in our respective organisations, Lead Members be thinking, feeling and behaving in one year's time if our project is successful?
b. by what indicators will we measure this success?
c. where are we now on those indicators?
d. who else can help us achieve our plans
e. how then do we get from here to there?

Having efficient minute-taking and action planning from each meeting so all know their specific responsibilities.

Tactful progress-chasing 3 days before an upcoming meeting on any doubtful issues.

Attending to systems: illustrations from practice

One senior CYPS manager said of the Steering Group meetings she attended:
It was so relaxing because (the music organisation) was so efficient with developing the agendas, minutes and so on that it seems all we had to do was go along and be creative! OK, so it was more than that but they were enjoyable meetings to attend and you came out of them feeling upbeat which is unusual!

And from a partner in another Sing Up NCB project:
I really like the way they( the music organisation) tactfully nudged me about things I’d said I would do before the next meeting. I think I’m fairly efficient but I felt the fact that they were obviously keeping an eye on progress – or lack of it – was good for the partnership. Because they did it on the basis of a good relationship between us, I actually found it supportive – it kept me up to the mark – and I didn’t feel got at! (Head of Fostering Team)

Why doing your research is important

Price talks above of ‘acceptance of initial ignorance’. You will need to be open to a new venture and approach it in a spirit of enquiry. But this doesn’t deny the importance of doing basic research.  This is essential in order to:

  • Help you get your head round the context of looked after children and related services in which you are aiming to work
  • Marshal the evidence to demonstrate what musical activity might offer them
  • Demonstrate your credibility, commitment and professionalism.

What doing your research might entail

Become fluent in using the evidence to promote the case for musical activity and looked after children (See Section B but ask your team to find examples from your own work too)

Either on your own – or perhaps better, in your team – ask:

  •  What links do we already have with looked after children and with others in their system?
  • What meetings or forums do we go where we might talk informally to people who may help us find our way about the system?

Do your homework on the numbers and needs of looked after children and young people on your patch and in what settings they are looked after.

Do your homework on how services to looked after children are organised, blending the informal information gleaned from inquiries within the team (Whose are the names that are constantly cropping up in conversations and who seem to be influential in what sections?) with the more formal CYPS organisational chart and directory.

Doing your research: illustrations from practice

"We knew that at the time that the looked after children teams were exercised by how they might address National Indicator 58 (the emotional and social wellbeing of looked after children). We suggested our project might contribute quite a bit. It was good timing."
(Project manager)

One project was explicit in its intention of finding its main partners' 'drivers' and seeking to support them:

"PITCH IN has demonstrated in a very real way that singing activities can promote effective group work, team building, and many individual benefits such as self expression and confidence building.  All these are recognized by CfBT to be fundamental to the general learning/improvement objectives that are central to JUMP."
(SoundLincs report)

"We have commenced discussions with Children’s Services in relation to their work in trying to reduce the number of Placement Breakdowns for LAC.  Part of their action research is to work with mixed groups of fostered and birth children to learn more about the issues that arise within the family following a placement.  Children’s Services have approached soundLINCS to bringing a creative element to the group work through the use of singing and songwriting."(SoundLincs report)

Why creating interest is important

Managers of services to looked after children have a multitude of tasks and pressures in their in-tray.
Music organisation managers must find ways of getting their proposal to the top of the pile based on:

  • Common service objectives
  • The X Factor e.g. fun, ‘a breath of fresh air’, good promotional activity
  • A rewarding professional relationship

What creating interest might entail

Taking stock and doing your research have been ‘in-house’. This task is beginning to put your preparation into action.

Seek meetings with the key players you have identified – but at each meeting ask: ’who else do you think I should be talking with about this proposal?’ and your network will keep spreading.

Either at or before such meetings, research and discuss  with individual partners what their current organisational imperatives are, 'what's in it for them?'. Give some thought to how your proposal might contribute to these being met.

Creating interest: illustrations from practice

In the Sing Up NCB programme:

"Engaging with the ‘right’ people within local services and building their understanding of the benefits of music-making for their young people, and how these were aligned with  local strategic priorities, were critical elements of any project.

"Support was needed at all stages of project delivery and from all areas of services, including senior and middle management in Children’s Services, their operational staff, carers in residential settings and foster carers. Key players varied depending on the structure of local care services, the project’s target group and setting. However, in each case having the ‘buy in’ of management and those responsible for the day-to-day care of the young people was essential."

This part of partnership development means lots of listening in formal and informal settings:

"I must have gone to 20 meetings at least in Children’s Services in setting up the partnerships. Trying to find the key people, making relationships. It took quite a bit of persistence."
(Music Organisation Manager)

One project started its campaign with a bang...

"Following the success of a previous small project, the Deputy Director of Children's Services invited the singing animateur to run a slot at two 300 strong Children's Services Staff Conferences. S_ decided to get them all singing. The change from embarrassed and rigid horror to relaxed fun in 15 mins was amazing. S_ was inundated with enthusiastic responses when she explained briefly the possibilities of developing musical activity with looked after children."

Why developing understanding is important

You may not yet have clinched the deal.

You are trying to get a greater understanding of each others’ formal interests and informal concerns while strengthening the professional relationship so that it is resilient and can ‘ride’ the inevitable problems – all at the same time as demonstrating competence: ‘these guys know what they are talking about and it would be good to work with them.’

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in Collaborative advantage: successful partnerships manage the relationship not just the deal, writing about the supposedly hard-nosed area of business partnerships, says:

"The best intercompany relationships are frequently messy and emotional, involving feelings like chemistry or trust. And they should not be entered into lightly. Only relationships with full commitment in all sides endure long enough to create value for the partners."

What developing understanding might entail

Regularly review how the explorations are going: what are you discovering? Where do you need to know more? With whom do you feel most comfortable and why? Who seem to be the key people you’ve come across and how do you cement the relationship with each of these?

As you begin to exchange practical ideas, be alert for areas where the same terms may mean different things to different organisations e.g. safeguarding, managing behaviour, group work(to some this means simply working in groups; to others it-s deeper: ‘supporting young people to join, survive and thrive in groups and learn from each other’), reflective practice.

Be aware that in each new meeting you are creating an impression: for having something worthwhile to promote; for friendliness; for efficiency. Reliably follow up anything you undertake to do in these meetings: competence in administration will impress those not yet aware of the competence of your music delivery.  Cement your reputation for enthusiasm, knowledge of the theme and commitment to the young people you aim to work with.

Who are emerging as key advocates? The report People with Passion had identified

"There is a need for an arts and creativity champion in children's services as a focus for project development and management."

Sometimes it may be better to 'show' rather than talk about possible approaches e.g. running an informal singing session at a Foster Carers gathering or a taster for children attending another event. In any case, you might take with you to meetings DVDs of your organisation’s practice which are likely to appeal to individual partners.

Developing understanding: illustrations from practice

Finding key gatekeepers. In the Sing Up NCB Pitch In project:

"Our primary partnership is with Lincolnshire County Council Children’s Services.  The lead person for the partnership has been Colin Hopkirk, Principal Participation Officer for the Participation and Inclusion Team.  Colin has been a positive advocate for our project and  brokered many significant contacts within Children’s Services for PITCH IN.  Chief amongst these were the 4 Team Managers who manage the Fostering and FAST teams throughout Lincolnshire and includes Supervising Social Workers and Placement Support Workers. 

"A productive working relationship is firmly established with the Team Managers who have directly participated in singing activities with PITCH IN at their team meetings, social and training events, and conferences.  Team Managers have cascaded promotional materials and singing opportunities through their networks which has created increased awareness and participation in our activities. 

"There are real opportunities to further develop and sustain relationships with Team Managers, Social Workers and Placement Support Workers.  In addition to supporting PITCH IN, we are seeing a greater interest in other soundLINCS projects and the opportunities they can create for Looked After Children."

And in the same programme, similarly:

"At the outset we (Myrtle Theatre Company) held a meeting with the head of fostering in Bristol and two managers from the Education for  Children Looked After Service (ECLAS) where a commitment was made to support the project. This manifested itself in one of the managers, Mina Patel, being appointed to give management time from her working week, funded by Children’s Service. This was hugely successful.

"Mina identified children who may wish to participate through their PEPs and information about the project was disseminated to carers, social workers, team leaders, ECLAS teachers and schools. She set up meetings with team leaders for us to attend to explain more about the project and ask for their help to encourage children and carers to participate. At these meetings we introduced the concept of social pedagogy and how we would be working."

Examples of aspects of the work where organisations might have different perspectives included, in the Sing Up NCB Programme:

"While group work was a key element of the project, it had not been understood at the management level where the project was seen as ‘just a leisure activity"
(Project manager)


"The rather unstructured style of the singing sessions did not sit easily with the more conventional educational approach of its local authority partner. Nevertheless, eventually compromises were reportedly made by both parties and the singing leader felt that relations between the partners had improved significantly."
(Singing leader)

Why attending to structures is important

Managers in all partner organisations will be overburdened and so it will be important for partnership meetings to be well set up and consist of the right people to further the business.

What attending to structures might entail

Do those people you want at the first meeting need any other incentive to come than the work itself i.e. do you need a senior manager to endorse/call that first meeting?

How  to get to the meeting organisational representatives who combine sufficient clout to commit organisational resources, overall enthusiasm for the project, and being close enough to the day-to-day operations of the project?

Attending to structures: illustrations from practice

Sound it Out, a member of the Sing Up NCB Programme, reported:

"In the initial development stages of this project we established an advisory group made up of Dudley Children’s and Youth Service representatives alongside other relevant professionals. We agreed to meet once a month throughout the duration of the project. These regular meetings enabled a strong partnership to develop between Sound It Out and Dudley Children’s and Youth Service in which all partners had a significant input into the planning, development and delivery of the project.

"Communication was also maintained between meetings to ensure that the actions agreed upon at the meetings were being implemented.  The advisory group continued to hold meetings after the direct project delivery had finished so that project partners could input fully into the seminar event in February. We also recently held a meeting to evaluate the project and the partnership itself."

"In the Leicester Sing Up project, the first step, after a briefing paper to the Head of Service to agree the mandate, was to establish a working party- key people from across the LAC service who would provide expertise and direction to the project as well as be able to communicate the project across their particular area and communicate upwards to Corporate Parenting, Head of Service etc.

"Our partnership continued to be strong during the delivery stage of the project.  As well as our working party, CYP staff worked with us to deliver the half term carnival event and the weekly singing sessions at Curve.  They were also involved in the planning stages of activities and debriefing after sessions.  This helped us to nurture good relationships with key staff who could then go back to the work place and enthuse about the project."

Why investing resources is important

David Price’s prerequisites for successful partnerships  include:

  • Each partner may have differing levels of contribution, but they must all have an equal commitment to the need for a partnered solution.
  • Partnership isn’t a spectator sport – each partner needs to have a clearly identified role to play. But it isn’t a competitive sport either – no jockeying for position.

What investing resources might entail

Investment can include:

  • Management time
  • Staff time
  • Resources in kind e.g. venues, transport
  • Political influence and advocacy
  • Emotional energy.

Beware that some partners may find it easier to promise resources than to deliver.

Investing resources: illustrations from practice

In Sound it Out, a project on the Sing Up NCB programme:

"Dudley Children’s and Youth Services donated the time of five support workers to the project in kind. Their input to project delivery was invaluable and their contributions to the weekly reflection sessions were incredibly helpful to the musicians on the project. Their unique perspective was beneficial in helping the artists to understand the behaviours of the participants in a wider context.

"This collaboration between musicians and support workers added another dimension to the partnership that will be sustained in the future work of all involved. The musicians and assistant musicians have all gained valuable experience in working with LAC and would be keen to continue working with LAC in the future."

The Leicester Sing Up NCB Project reported:

"The amount of time invested in nurturing a partnership is immense and this was difficult to capture in the budget.  We spent a considerable amount of time setting up our partnership between Leicester-shire Arts, Bullfrog Arts and Leicester City Council.  This was incredibly time consuming but on reflection was key to the success of the project."

In another project, the manager said:

"It would be unlikely that I would have the capacity within my role to maintain this partnership alongside other work, unless it was costed into my role at full cost recovery."

Why modelling integrity and trust is important

Some organisations have had poor experiences of partnership working. They may have felt their good will has been abused, they have been ripped off, they have been used as ‘funding candy’. There is often no single authority in a partnership  which can ‘tell an organisation what to do’. As a result, the successful partnerships often rely on partners ’soft skills: integrity, trust, transparency, going the extra mile, influencing skills.

What modelling integrity and trust might entail

Trust is easier to break than to build. It needs to be built at strategic level between partners but also at operational level between delivery staff. Finally it has to be built with funding organisations.

Among the qualities known to promote successful partnership-working are:

  • Openness, transparency, vulnerability – a willingness to ask for help
  • Reliability, punctuality, demonstrably following up on actions you have undertaken to take
  • Giving support to partners and being open to receive support from them
  • Making time for reflection
  • Making time to celebrate

Modelling integrity and trust: illustrations from practice

One project in the Sing Up NCB programme wrote of Sing Up’s role as ‘lead partner’:

"Very good partnership, lots of support, clear structure, regular reporting: what we were doing, how to correct what we weren't doing, taking an interest in what we were doing, listening to my ideas and making suggestions. Not holding us to account, but had the job of ensuring that when we weren't making the deliverables, they would help us back on track."

Why thinking integration is important

Integration is a delicate flower which needs nurturing at every turn in order to create the interdependence and resilience necessary to withstand the glitches which are inevitable because of the complexities of partnership working.

What thinking integration might entail

Discover how your local authority partner’s systems work and consider adapting your practices to complement them. This saves them time and earns goodwill.

Create opportunities for cross-partnership working where this can be done efficiently e.g. organising events, editing promotional DVDs. This is good collective CPD, can enhance communication between delivery staff and enhances ownership.

Thinking integration: illustrations from practice

The Leicester Sing Up NCB programme consciously

"followed a similar approach to how any projects/  partnerships would be set up within the Local Authority, which immediately gave us credibility within the Local Authority. The steps were as follows:

  1. Briefing paper to Head of Service to agree a mandate
  2. Establish a working party- key people from across the LAC service who would provide expertise and direction to the project as well as be able to communicate the project across their particular area and communicate upwards to Corporate Parenting, Head of Service etc.
  3. Present a draft plan of the project including a Communications plan and Monitoring and evaluation plan
  4. Agree a consultation plan
  5. Consulting with identified stakeholders enabled us to engage with many of the stakeholders within the service and get a really good understanding of how the LACYP service worked.
  6. Final draft of project plan to Working party to agree Final Project Plan. After a long consultation period the working party were able to help us prioritise the most effective parts of the project.
  7. Delivery of project
  8. The working party continued to meet on a 4-6 weekly basis.  This was essential to maintain the momentum of the project and ensure the partnership was nurtured.  All meetings were documented which enabled us to reflect on any key learning and actions.
  9. An update briefing was sent out to all colleagues who had been consulted before the summer to give them a conversational update of what had been going on and to confirm which parts of the project would be delivered.  Initially we’d aimed to do this on a monthly basis but found that this was unrealistic and it transpired to be every 2 months.
  10. A member of the working party who also sits on the corporate parenting board updated our strategic partners regularly. A briefing document was sent to strategic partners 3 times over the course of the project.  We intend to provide an evaluation of the project for the corporate parenting forum.

Why addressing staffing change is important

Key staff in organisations leaving their posts or being absent for long periods is an occupational hazard of organisational life. In a partnership it can be particularly problematic because their organisational colleagues may not appreciate the role they have been playing in the partnership.

What addressing staffing change might entail

Encourage individual partners to see themselves as leaders of a team within their section or organisation so that if they as team leader are out of the picture, others can carry on.

Addressing staffing change: illustrations from practice

One project in the Sing Up NCB programme, while regretting discontinuity, made it work for them:

"Changes in personnel were also mentioned as being a disruption. It is perhaps a positive result of the depth of collaborative working developed that in one case, although we had to go through the discomfort of having to remake relationships in the end it worked better because the team was spread more widely."

By encouraging partner representatives from the outset to plan for continuity, a similar project minimised the disruption:

"Unfortunately M was taken ill three quarters of the way through the project and is still not back at work full time. This has been extremely disappointing for her. Thankfully the partnership work that was essential to the long term success took place at the beginning of the project and although it was difficult to lose her towards the end, enough had been put in place for us to manage."

Why communicating is important

It is challenging to ensure good communications within an organisation. Across several organisations or sections, there are proportionately more potential areas of breakdown. In instances of inadequate communication, some partners may feel marginalised and their effort disrespected.

What communicating might entail

Decide early on and collectively within the partnership on a communications policy: what needs to be communicated to whom, how, by when and by whom? This seems 'merely' an administrative task but see it as an essential part of developing the partnership as a community of practice.

Discuss ways in which all partners can be clear when receiving a communication: is it for information? a request for advice? or something that requires action? How can it stand out from the myriad of other communications partners receive.

Encourage each partner to take responsibility for communication within their own section or organisation.
Develop a comprehensive table of contact details and ensure each partnership member has an uptodate version of this. This should cover different circulation lists e.g. strategic partners and operational partners.

Consider a periodic e-newsletter through which to inform, consult and celebrate.

Circulate appropriate CDs and DVD clips to show the results of the partnership.

Communicating: illustrations from practice

Communication is a constant activity. Pie Factory Music in the Sing Up NCB programme reported:

"Once the relationships were established, you had to maintain them, give the constant feedback on how it was going, showing them DVDs, demonstrating that what they were involved in was working."

Successful co-working was a crucial vehicle for communication. The Leicester Sing Up NCB project reported:

"Our partnership continued to be strong during the delivery stage of the project.  As well as our working party, CYP staff worked with us to deliver the half term carnival event and the weekly singing sessions at Curve.  They were also involved in the planning stages of activities and debriefing after sessions.  This helped us to nurture good relationships with key staff who could then go back to the work place and enthuse about the project."

Pie factory Music in the same programme reported

"I have fed info into our Children’s Trust Boards at local and County level so people are getting to hear the stories and the impact of this work. I believe this helped in the decision of a funding offer from the Council."

Two projects used partners' expertise in communications very specifically. In soundLincs:

"The project has developed a new relationship with Fostering and Adoption Officers.  The officers are responsible for maintaining and updating the Foster Carers website and keeping Foster Carers informed of training and other opportunities available to them. The information is sent to Foster Carers by post and email.  PITCH IN has been featured on the Foster Carers website; family group sessions have been profiled; and promotional materials for a Primary Aged choir posted out to every Foster Carer in the county.  The Fostering and Adoption team are arranging to send out NCB Carers Can! Foster Singing magazine to every Foster Carer in the County."

The Leicester Sing Up NCB project reported:

"In the development phase of the project we have met with the communications team from Leicester City Council to identify opportunities for publicity and features. They have been able to support our project by:

  1. Putting a Singup website link on their extranet pages which is the website and communication tool for all the City schools.

  2. Producing articles in KIT (Keeping In Touch) – Childrens workforce newsletter. A Photograph of our Half-Term Carnival Event was on the Front Page of the November  issue.

  3. Article for Leicester Link – a magazine delivered to every city resident

  4. Send a professional photographer to some of the events

  5. Rachel Dickinson Deputy Head of Service CYPS has suggested the story of the Leicester Sing Up LAC project is used as evidence of good partnership working and focused on in their annual CYPS conference.  The steering group for the conference is looking at commissioning a video to reflect this. 

(This strategy may have contributed to the project winning the Children and Young People Now Arts and Cultural Award for 2011).

Herefordshire Music Pool in the Sing Up NCB programme consciously thought in terms of  creating a distinctive brand which could aid in communication (and sustainability):

"We believe that the title name of our project ‘High Tide’ allowed for the emergence of an easily and instantly identifiable ‘brand’ for the project. Publicity, leaflets, graphics etc were lively, energetic and powerful with the use of the iconic tidal wave image ‘The Great Wave’ by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. Our talented ‘in-house’ graphic designer had fun adapting the image for our use, e.g. adding musical notes which emitted from the man in the boat, the addition of a surfboard for the CD cover (‘The Tide is High’ being a popular choice for one of the CD tracks) and raindrops and snowflakes for the Autumn and Christmas leaflets. The complete image conveyed by the title name, associated graphics and song material helped to give the project a true sense of identity."

Why improvement and learning is important

A creative partnership between a CYPS (statutory or independent) and a music organisation has great potential but the work is pioneering as well as challenging.

Learning from experience should not be delayed until an end of project evaluation. Rather there needs to be constant reflection-in-action and reflection-on-action in order to make sense of some complex happenings and learn from the myriad of experiences.

Why improvement and learning is important

Work to promote among the partners a culture of continuous improvement. An ongoing agenda item

  • ‘What's going well - and why?' and
  • 'What's going less well - and why?

can get the ball rolling. You may want to deepen this at some stage by going first when it's time to discuss this and take a more individual organisational focus:

  • What my organisation is contributing
  • What we think is going well
  • Where we are finding difficulties
  • What we are learning from our involvement
  • Would any of you like to give us brief feedback?

By framing the partnership as a community of practice (Wenger 1998), you would be:

  • learning together from and about the practice of working with looked after children through musical activity
  • learning together from and about the process of working together
  • making meaning i.e. is it just another part of our treadmill or does this project give more meaning to our overall work
  • strengthening our professional identity, reconnecting us with the reasons we are in the work in the first place.

Reflective practice is central to social pedagogy (See Section E). Your project may be encouraging operational staff to use Social Pedagogy and reflective practice as a tool in their work. For the partnership itself to practice collective reflection would reinforce this culture.

Improvement and learning: illustrations from practice

One project manager on the Sing Up NCB programme said:

"It was the ethos of reflective practice across the project that was the main learning point for me. The reflection after each session, the reflection in our staff meetings and the reflections with managers in other partners, one-to-one and in partnership meetings. It really sustained our enthusiasm – and also helped us pick ourselves up after difficult sessions. But we were learning all the time and that practice has now spread across our other work."

Exercise leadership

Many partnerships have an unclear authority structure. This can lead to a vacuum of leadership.

What exercising leadership might entail

Start an early collective discussion of roles and responsibilities in the partnership.

The music organisation may well take an implicit or explicit lead in the partnership. The project is more central to their organisation’s work than it is to the local authority looked after children’s service or that of the independent fostering agency, however supportive these may be.

Leadership can be defined as: seeing what needs to be done and seeing to it that it gets done. Anyone in the partnership can and will exercise leadership regularly in small or large ways. Creating a culture which fosters this ‘distributed leadership’ will broaden the base of the partnership.

Formal leaders may or may not have charisma: often commitment, interpersonal skills, reliability and competence are more important.

There is leadership that contributes to the meeting of task needs. But also that which contributes to the meeting of emotional needs whether

  • in individuals who may be having a hard time within their host organisation in delivering on their commitment to the partnership; or
  • in the group itself whose dynamics may need attention; or who may need a lift - recognition, humour, celebration; or who may need support with conflict resolution.

Exercising leadership: illustrations from practice

The Project Manager of Pie Factory Music in the Sing Up NCB programme reported:

"We decided we were the most flexible people in this arrangement and so we are the people to get flexible and do the work. We have more space."

It was this type of insight and proactivity that characterised the many successful partnerships in the music with looked after children field.

From a report on the Sing Up Beyond the Mainstream programme:

"Three elements of the Programme Manager's style were particularly cited (by partners) as contributing very largely to the successes: her efficiency and timeliness (meetings were always clear, notes were produced swiftly, phone calls were returned promptly); her supportive manner; and her complete conviction in the work and personal drive to move it forward."

Do your research

Create interest

Develop understanding, relationships, motivation

Invest resources

Model integrity and trust


Improvement and learning in partnerships

38 reads