Different organisations and sectors working together has helped Tameside Council build strong relationships and find new ways to tackle the issues that matter to the wider community.
Making a whole system change
The idea for effective collaboration at Tameside Council came from looking at changing the traditional ways of working. ‘In the past, we’ve focussed on programme delivery and getting bums on seats,’ explains Annette Turner, Programme Manager for Physical Activity at Tameside MBC. ‘There has often been a transactional approach to our work: ‘if we give you this, what can you deliver?’
However, Annette admitted that these types of relationships were not always sustainable. ‘We need to explore what matters to both parties for collaborations to work’, she says. ‘We knew it was time to understand the work different people across the systems do, the roles they play, and what they care about, in order create whole system change.’
The first steps to collaboration
Initially, the joined-up approach to working across, and between, sectors, began with approaching directorates and colleagues in other areas. For Annette, this meant broadening her network and encouraging everyone to think about the whole systems approach. ‘We wanted to start to think more about how all our worlds impact each other,’ explains Annette. ‘It was important to talk about the possibilities that could be created if we put our heads together, knowing reaching out to other people could spark new ideas.’
‘This led to open discussions with others to talk about their pressures and priorities, as well as what makes them tick,’ Annette continues. ‘I knew we could stumble across new ground through these conversations.’
Discovering new opportunities
There have been unexpected, and positive, consequences of collaboration, as following one avenue has opened doors for new things. ‘Opening one door through one conversation leads to new paths. I thought I knew which angles would have the biggest impact, but small things have grown to greater opportunities that we’d never have uncovered if we hadn’t collaborated.’
One example Annette shares is the Cycling Participation Group. ‘We realised the system wasn’t pulling together in a coordinated way,’ she says. ‘Naturally, the focus had fallen onto the physical activity benefits of cycling. However, it was clear that the cycling assets, for example cycle tracks, green spaces, parks, volunteers, and more, were all essential components to increasing cycling activity. However, each asset was owned by a different part of the system, and there was no coordination.’
‘All asset owners started meeting together, and we quickly saw the benefit of regular conversations,’ Annette continues. ‘Yet we also knew we needed to make sure these meetings didn’t follow old formats, and were being used to really get things done.’ Therefore, the group changed focus to bring together people excited about cycling, with good ideas. ‘It’s about creating a joint strategy, a strategy born out of seeing the system from different perspectives.’ adds Annette. ‘It’s about talking and making a difference together, discussing social events like teaching others to ride. The strength comes from our collaboration.’
The benefits of a joined-up approach
‘The Greater Manchester Moving idea of collaborative working really set the wheels in motion, and we wouldn’t be moving in this direction without their approaches and principles’, says Annette. ‘This joined-up working feels quite different, and far more exciting, than other programmes. It moves away from traditional approaches that prevent real system change, and builds up a strong, shared community who open doors to collaborate.’
For Annette and her co-collaborators, learning about different roles through the right conversations develops trusted relationships. ‘Balancing quick-wins with long term goals are what makes joined-up working effective,’ Annette says. ‘Through conversations with people, worlds collide. Our ideas are bigger and better when we stop thinking alone.’
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