The art of collaboration

By Hamid Vaghefian, London Regional Manager at Sported

hamid-vaghefianCollaboration in the voluntary sector has become something of a buzz word of late. Collaborative, joint or partnership working – covers a variety of ways that two or more organisations can work together. Options range from informal networks and alliances, through joint delivery of projects to full mergers. The voluntary sector however, has always struggled to grasp this concept with open arms, and I have often seen organisations competing and operating in silos without opening their eyes to the potential opportunities collaboration could bring.


In sport, competition is king. But when we are all working for the one goal – improving young people’s lives through sport – shouldn’t we break down these barriers and come together for the greater good? The answer of course is yes, but all too often we don’t see enough of this happening amongst our clubs, funders, National Governing Bodies, County Sports Partnerships and community groups. Whether it’s through a lack of capacity, a shift in priorities, or fear of diluting what you do – it’s a challenge many of our members have.


Steve Bucknall and Karl Brown One recent example of a fantastic collaboration is that between two of Sported’s members – London Thunder and Leicester Warriors Basketball clubs. The two organisations, led by Steve Bucknall and Karl Brown respectively, came together earlier this year to put together a funding proposal for a unique intercity exchange programme. Having secured the funding, the programme brings together over 100 young people from disadvantaged communities in London and Leicester to improve community cohesion and help develop their life skills, health and well-being through sport.


The first of the exchanges took place at the Thunderdome in South Bermondsey on 3rd September, and included a crime prevention talk and Q&A from local police, a basketball activation course, life skills workshops, and a couple of inspirational speakers, followed by a basketball tournament. This hugely successful collaboration will be followed by a similar event in Leicester in the coming months, and the two clubs are hoping to make this a regular occurrence. We hope to see more of our members continue in this vain and link up with other organisations doing similar work, or working towards similar goals to achieve better results for their young people.


Policeman playing basketballThis theme of collaboration and networking is becoming more and more prevalent for funders too. The need for partnership working is growing in this climate of cuts and austerity, with more opportunities available to those that can demonstrate they are adding value to their projects through partnership working.


The Young People’s Foundation (YPF) model is the response of John Lyon’s Charity to the current pressures on the Children and Young People sector and specifically the issues faced by the voluntary sector in outer London. Over the past few years, the charity has become increasingly concerned about the lack of high quality youth provision in London’s outer boroughs and via the Young People’s Foundations seek to ensure that what remains, is a viable and vibrant youth sector that is sustainable in the future.


Starting with three boroughs initially – Barnet, Brent and Harrow – these Young People’s Foundations will focus primarily on bringing together voluntary sector organisations working with young people. The aim is to provide a network of like-minded organisations that can come together to be a part of consortium funding bids and access resources and training through the support of their local Foundation. It’s a brilliant idea to help bring about much needed change in the way youth organisations work together. Following on from these three Foundations being set up, other boroughs are now following suit (Camden, Westminster, Waltham Forest, among others) and it’s highly likely this model will soon be replicated across the nation.


house-of-sportIn addition to these new models of practice, CSPs are also seeing a need for greater partnership working to help them achieve their goals. In a bid to see 1 million people more active across the capital, London Sport has launched the “House of Sport project”. This collaborative space for physical activity and sport organisations in London will open its doors in early 2017, intended to provide opportunities to facilitate collaboration and save money for the capital’s physical activity and sport sector. The space will provide for 150-200 people in a combination of dedicated offices, shared networking space and collaborative hot desking.


The space will be run as a not-for-profit venture, ensuring that any profit is reinvested in services to improve the support available to organisations working to promote increased levels of physical activity and well-being in the capital.


It’s initiatives such as this, the Young People’s Foundations and the work our members are doing across the UK to build community cohesion and share best practice that will help us all get a little closer to delivering a World-Class Community Sport System.


If we are to become a more active nation, we need to follow in this vain, harnessing the collective skills and resources we have at our disposal to collaborate and create a brighter future for our young people. If the success of Team GB at Rio tells us anything, it’s that team spirit and belief in their potential drove them to beat their medals tally from London 2012. If we are truly to make a difference in this new era of reduced funding we need to strengthen our sector by acknowledging that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


For more information on the Young People’s Foundations see here.


Have you considered partnering up with other organisations in your area to strengthen projects or write joint funding applications?


If you have any success stories of working collaboratively with local or regional partners, please get in touch!