Collaborative working frequently asked questions
- Do you have a template agreement for collaborating organisations?
- What structures are available for consortia delivery of public services?
- Do you have a list of consultants who can support collaborative working or merger?
- How can I find a potential partner organisation?
In all but the simplest cases, a written agreement is advised. But creating a 'one size fits all' agreement would be a tricky task, considering the diversity of the voluntary sector and the many different purposes to which collaborative working is put.
The process of devising your agreement jointly with your partner organisation/s is as important as the finished document itself. We have produced guidance on joint working agreements for use by organisations developing their own agreements that explores the process of drawing up an agreement and suggests content to consider for inclusion.
Find out more about joint working agreements.
Funders reducing the number of contracts they hold results in a transfer of responsibilities of contract management to delivering organisations. Voluntary and community organisations are increasingly exploring different structures for delivering public service contracts in consortia.
Three common models of consortia delivery of public services are:
- a new organisation established to manage a contract
- one organisation taking lead responsibility for a contract
- an external, non-delivering organisation taking the lead
The NCVO Consultancy Team has some capacity to offer consultancy support to organisations embarking on collaborative projects. Please contact us at: We have also recently compiled a list of consultants with experience of facilitating collaborative working and merger. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCVO has a directory of approved consultants, some of whom specialise in supporting collaborations and mergers. Visit the directory.
The Partner Zone on the NCVO Funding Central website lists organisations wishing to make contact to explore the possibilities of collaborative projects.
You can search by location, organisation type, type of activity, beneficiaries or by collaborative working skills and experiences and then view a list of potential partner organisations - and contact them directly. Or register so that others can get in touch with you.
The Partner Zone user guide explains how to search for like-minded organisations, tips on how to make contact and suggestions on what to include in your profile.
From chatting to organisations that are already collaborating, it seems to us that many of the formal partnerships evolve from the informal links already existing between organisations. They may be part of the same subsector, serve the same community or share a location. With this in mind, you may be more likely to find a partner organisation in the course of the routine networking that all organisations do, spotting a compatible project in an email newsletter, for instance, or chatting to someone at an event.
Drawing up your own criteria could help you clarify what you are looking for and check out the compatibility of potential partners. Advance Housing & Support drew up a 'would-like-to-meet' wish list describing their ideal partner and then set out to find organisations that met most of their criteria. Second Step, Mind in Birmingham and Sussex Oakleaf consequently became strategic partners of Advance, working with them on mental health service provision.
Should you collaborate? Key questions is a checklist to help organisations decide whether to embark on formal collaborative working or merger. Compatibility is one of the most important issues for potential partners to consider.
Other useful information
- Potential benefits and risks of collaborative working
- Models and case studies describing the different ways that organisations can work together
- Merger model with case studies
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