The power of networking for integration
"Communication is key to the success of the partnership work"
Engage Renfrewshire is the Third Sector Interface for Renfrewshire working to support local voluntary organisations to be well managed, well resourced, well connected and well represented. Essentially the TSI works alongside charities, community groups and organisations in the area ensuring they have what they need to succeed.
A main feature of the work of the TSI is in its community and partnership endeavours which focuses on building relationships between organisations. Karen McIntyre, Community and Partnership Manager, leads this piece of work. At present a focus is involvement with the Strategic Planning Group of the Renfrewshire HSCP whereby Karen’s aim is to increase the influence of the voluntary sector within the HSCP. This is aiding the third sector to integrate further with other organisations. While the challenges being faced are funding and sustainability, funders and donors are reassured by the collaborative work being undertaken, the sharing of resources and shared learning that is taking place.
Communication is key to the success of the partnership work and a short-life working group has been set up to address this with a recent event taking place for eight charities to showcase their work, educating the head of Strategic Planning, and one another, on their programmes.
One of the main activities to bring together the voluntary and statutory sectors is the Health Networking Breakfast set up by Karen who states: “What I was trying to achieve was to increase the influence of the voluntary sector within the HSCP and do that from a grassroots level, a bottom up approach where colleagues on the ground would know what is going on in the area because they are talking to one another.”
Renfrewshire Health Networking Breakfasts take place quarterly and bring together a vast range of people from the voluntary sector and the statutory sector across health and social care. Each meeting gives different areas an opportunity to showcase their work, but the real communication takes place with ‘speed networking’ sessions. Karen reports that the initial vision for the events was to bring together staff working on the frontline with services, however that has filtered up to management level staff keen to take part in the relationship building that goes along with the sessions.
The relationship building element is crucial to the furthering of integrated working in the area and the events spark innovative ideas for partnership working as well as being a powerful knowledge sharing environment.
For Karen the power of the networking events is in their simplicity, “for me it really is as straight forward as getting people in a room and encouraging them to talk. The speed networking session is easy, it’s easy to get snippets of information and meet lots of people in a 20 minute time frame, people that you might not normally talk to.” These events provide an accessible platform to share information locally and, ultimately, the relationship building also builds trust between various organisations, the cornerstone of partnership working.
On the offer of the voluntary sector Karen states that its responsiveness and agility are key attributes in terms of partnership working. The ambition to work closely with the HSCP is clear. To that end communication and coming together is key, and ongoing relationship building will help to bolster the energy and willingness to integrate services.
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