Why We Collaborate


At a time of austerity in public finances and radical shake-ups in prison and probation, the voluntary sector has continued to deliver a huge variety of services for people in contact with the criminal justice system. While much around them has changed drastically, voluntary sector organisations have continued to deliver some of the most remarkable results in turning around the lives of offenders and keeping communities safe.


This report, developed in partnership with Clinks, presents examples which illustrate the power of collaboration to help charities provide an improved service and find new ways of working. But it also highlights how the current climate can encourage organisations to compete for shrinking funding pots rather than working together.


Collaboration in practice


The report sets out four case studies of collaboration which illustrate both its value and the ways in which it is vulnerable:


  • A collaboration between Fine Cell Work and RECOOP at HMP Leyhill has provided better ways of supporting prisoners to partake in purposeful activity and, enabled them to create a service which neither would have been able to manage alone.
  • The partnership of Pact, POPS and Nepacs in delivering a model of family engagement has enabled them to scale up their service to meet rising demand.
  • Sussex’s Inspire women’s project brought partners together to provide a wrap-around approach to women offenders
  • Golden Key, an eight-year Big Lottery-funded project in Bristol, aims to redesign the support for people with multiple needs



Lessons for  collaboration:


Drawing on our case studies, we identified a number of lessons about how to develop successful collaborations.


When working in partnership, voluntary sector organisations should:


Establish good relationships at every level of the partnership

  • Ensure collaboration includes communication and practice sharing between frontline practitioners as well as managers
  • Standardise and minimise monitoring systems as far as possible
  • Continually assess partner engagement, especially buy-in from the statutory agencies
  • Not be afraid to start small and experiment.

In order to support collaboration, commissioners should:

  • Understand what is already in place before commissioning
  • Provide long-term funding and policy commitment, which allows partners to invest time in nurturing relationships
  • Acknowledge the flexible nature of partnerships by being responsive to requests to re-organise partnership arrangements within funding periods.