Letting a thousand partnerships bloom

4 min readOct 26, 2020

Councils have all got ambitious visions to make their local areas better. They know they can’t achieve this on their own, and know this means doing some things differently. They need to work with people who have different levers for change, can provide additional resources and test new ways of tackling issues.

In Camden, we’re in a unique position with a wide range of diverse partners opening up opportunities for innovation — from world leading employers, thought leaders and institutions, to local community organisations and community champions.

We’re already doing a lot with others — from developing the Knowledge Quarter Spatial Strategy, to investing in Good Work Camden and experimenting in our Public Collaboration Lab via our partnerships in health

We want to build on this to develop stronger collaborations, create the infrastructure for new ones and make the most of links between them — embedding these in our day to day work.

Collaboration can happy in different ways, be it through informal relationships to more formal arrangements like with our new advice partnership, working together to solve a common issue or improve a place, like our future high streets work, through to strategic partnerships like our health & wellbeing board or our partnership with UCL.

How do you build the foundations to develop strategic collaborations?

1. Developing and communicating a clear offer for collaborations

Leeds Anchors

Much of our partnership working happens organically. This is great but means there’s not a clear offer for collaborators demonstrating why they should work with us, what that will entail or who they should talk to if they don’t already work with us. This could result in holding back potential opportunities.

Working with partners, we can celebrate what we’ve achieved together, recognising their work and building a clear offer on why we should work together and what that will mean for them.

Councils need to develop a clear ask to partners for working for them — centred on how working together achieves our vision as a place where everyone can succeed. To be most effective, they should develop this together so it is a shared goal and in a shared language — Oldham Partnership, Greater Manchester Commissioning and Leeds Anchor Network are excellent examples — what examples have you seen that you’d recommend?

2. Learn from mobilising around missions

London Recovery Board

We work with collaborators everyday across the council. Each is unique, with its own set of levers for influence and focus. However, many of these have grown organically and we don’t have a clear, consistent view of how best to work together.

By taking a mission focused view, you can engage collaborators around a common focus to achieve change, whilst keeping an additional view to test what works for collaboration.

Examples like London’s cross-sector Recovery Board, work by UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose’s Mission Oriented Innovation Network and Camden’s very own Renewal Commission come to mind as good examples.

3. Supporting collaborations to thrive

Public Collaboration Lab

Collaboration already cuts across most of councils’ work — from working with Housing Associations, to involving academics in our work from leading Universities and working together with the NHS to improve Public Health.

However, there is no single view of what these collaborations look like, whether they are going well or how we can make links between them. This can make it harder for us to take a strategic approach to prioritising our work with partners.

By developing collective intelligence across partners, we can identify opportunities to better serve needs, using analytical capability to help this.

By looking across our collaborators we can identify what we should test with who, what opportunities we have for working with others and how we time this for impact.

By bringing together collaborators we can share learning, identify further collaborations, cross-fertilise ideas and provide opportunities for scaling.

How can you therefore enable collaboration to be more embedded in your organisation’s day to day work, know what partnerships exist & how they can work with them, support people in their collaborations, develop a portfolio of mission based experiments to develop clear and strong collaborations to create impact across our work so they are linked together they are more than a sum of their parts?




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese