The challenges of collaboration

Within the wider social sector in Ministry’s like Health, Justice, Education and Social Services, the catch cry is for moving away from the traditional ‘silo’ approach to service provision, towards a more joined up and collaborative approach to meeting the needs of our most vulnerable families and individuals. This is good news

As someone involved in some of these initiative I have some nagging concerns. Firstly, the sectors involved are staffed by a diverse group of professionals each with their own language and models of care. The language of the health workforce is different to that of social workers, which is different again to teachers, police, corrections, probation and so on.

Secondly, in all the meetings and discussions I have been party to, there has been very little mention of some of the “elephants in the room” that must be addressed if real collaboration is to take place. I am referring to things like sharing power and resources that are already stretched. Often staff on the coal face are having to supply information on outcomes to both their immediate boss and the advisory group on the same matter. As most collaboration is at this stage experimental, it is often unclear what will be sustainably left in place once the trial or project comes to an end.

Finally, this collaboration is time consuming, taking people away from their core business and creating additional work pressure. It is not uncommon for there to be several collaborative projects happening simultaneously in the same community resulting in what someone recently described as “product clutter”.

However I think we are heading in the right direction, and there have been some very good results from intensive intervention in certain areas.

I don’t think we have arrived at a collaborative nirvana yet but I think we have begun the journey and with some further courageous conversations could change the way we make our services more helpful and dare I say WHOLISTIC. 

Written by Judy Turner, Party Deputy Leader.

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