Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Reflections on the conclusion of the Collaboration Programme

Having delivered the final project report for the Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot (see the Strategy Exchange - far right side of the Home Page - FAN Club Collaboration Initiative) and my observations on the overall Collaboration Programme to the Horizon Scanning Centre, I have had an opportunity to reflect.

One of the most striking observations I would make is that the feedback from the regional pilot reflected the inquiry results from my earlier work; both the challenges as well as the benefits.

On the top of the pile, were two factors:
  1. Operational issues overtake everything that is longer term. When you dial into that, focuses on learning, less connected to the day job, working in ways that feels more complex and uncertain, then the connection with the collaborative futures work was fragile.
  2. The reluctance of the participants collectively to make a more formal commitment to the collaboration process. Yes, there was implicit agreement about how we would work together, but the components emerged through a number of different workshops, telephone conference calls and sharing documents.
Nevertheless, the lessons were clear and articulated in the feedback received from the participants. The content developed by way of a FutureScape strategy roadmap was also very interesting. While the futures events identified by the project team might be assessed differently by others, they certainly hint at the potential for some interesting following up work and more in depth research.

I wouldn’t want to give the impression that the pilot project didn’t go well. While it did not achieve some of the aggressive goals set, as an experiment in collaborative futures work, it was indeed successful. We worked collaboratively, identified the challenges and potential future opportunties and developed some content about ageing.

When I reflect back on the other elements of the Collaboration Programme, the Regional Policy Collaboration Pilot worked for all the reasons that other attempts to stimulate more collaborative working with other stakeholders connected to the Horizon Scanning Centre / Futures Analysts Network, did not.

The regional pilot had:
  • A catalyst - the devolved administrations and participants interested in a common issue, ageing;
  • A forum – the FAN Club;
  • Interested and motivated stakeholders;
  • Sponsorship from HSC;
  • Dedicated facilitation and collaborative working support.
Collaboration remains an important approach to consider in bringing resolution to critical issues, particularly given the current situation with regard to public spending. But where collaboration is perceived as crucial to achieving key objectives, the requirement of the participants to work in new ways, develop relationships as well as simply consider a joint-working process will determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the solution if not the basic outcome.

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