Taking a portfolio approach to developing partnerships

5 min readOct 28, 2020


Building on my previous post on partnerships on councils on general, here’s work we’ve been doing in Camden

1. Celebrating collaboration and demonstrating value

What’s unique about Camden is its combination of a vibrant civic culture, strong physical & social infrastructure. We are the gateway between London and Europe, making it an ideal place to come and invest, locate, learn & work. Through the Knowledge Quarter, we have a cluster of 100 cultural, scientific & tech organisations, several of whom are international leaders in their sectors. We need to build on our unique strengths & assets

As a council, we invest in the future of our borough. We invest significantly in physical and social infrastructure. We’ve pioneered building our own homes and investing in building new schools & community facilities. As a borough, we also attract significant investment to regenerate our neighbourhoods. We are one of the councils making the biggest investment in prevention & cohesion, through our own services, as well as our voluntary & community sector, which is home to a mixture of agile community groups and influential national charities.

Our strategic collaborators are already acting as anchors to support the wellbeing of Camden. Our collaborators are already acting as anchors in Camden, how they are contributing to the wellbeing of the local economy & communities, such as recruiting local people or supporting community or startups. We also have a diversity of anchors, from universities through to our community anchors (like community champions, or our neighbourhood makers group), as well as public spaces, like living centres, libraries or even parks. We have a strong reputation for mobilising our anchor institutions to innovate around common causes, such as the Climate Crisis, Youth Safety Taskforce, HS2, Health & Social Care Integration, STEAM or the KQ Spatial Strategy.

Collaborate: Building Collaborative Places

We need to recognise and build on the existing ways we work together. It’s important to recognize the existing infrastructure we have in place to collaborate. In comparing the infrastructure that Collaborate outline are needed for place-based collaboration, we are in a good position.

Camden 2025 as the vision & strategy for the plan which we developed with our residents & partners.

Although we don’t have common governance that brings all the anchor institutions together, we have governance which brings together actors around key areas, like the Business Board and Health & Wellbeing Board.

We have a common investment strategy for the place, and common visions for investment in particular areas, like Euston & Kings Cross, as well as mutualizing giving through Camden Giving.

Although we don’t have a common leadership programme for anchor institutions, we have a wealth of universities who provide leadership programmes for social purpose, such as UCL’s MPA or CSM MA Publics, which we collaborate with.

We have extended We Make Camden to showcase the work of our collaborators and their impact on our community, as well as hold key events to launch new partnerships or case studies of projects to bring our work to life.

2. Mobilise around common missions we can influence

There are missions that we collectively have in common and are becoming more important to us than ever before. To mobilise our anchor institutions, these missions need to be:

3. Understand what levers we can use to drive collective impact

Each anchor institution will have different levers it can use to drive change — soft to hard, local to international.

By starting around common missions we want to tackle together, identifying experiments we can develop together, we can work out who is best placed to play specific roles.

The next three diagrams show the different roles that anchor institutions have, and importantly that involve residents.

We also need to think differently about what roles we could collectively play that channels our collective strengths.

4. Develop a portfolio of experiments that test different levers

Through developing a portfolio of experiments testing the different levers we have, we can test and learn how we might scale collaborations across our strategic partnerships, how we decide what we actively make a local focus (i.e. family friendly) and what we influence nationally (i.e. alternative funding) and even internationally (i.e. climate crisis).

Through building on existing partnership infrastructure — like the Knowledge Quarter, Public Collaboration Lab or STEAM — and experimenting with new mechanisms, like challenge prizes, impact partnerships or a citizens assembly of anchor institutions, we can learn what needs adjusting, investing in or scaling. These are experiments we’re currently developing

More next on the strategic partnership we’re developing with UCL…




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