We need a bit of a scrap
July 28, 2011
One of my few remaining public sector regional partners suggested to me the other day that she has now heard me say ‘we need a bit of a scrap’ in a number of arenas and that it may have become my catchphrase. Thankfully she then suggested that she thinks I may be right!
During my brief tenure on a Local Strategic Partnership we had an away day and we were asked what ‘permissions’ we wanted: I suggested we needed to have a bit more open disagreement – in order that we can start to develop creative solutions.
My issue is that way too many of our partnerships have got bogged down in a consensus approach to problem solving. At its best this approach can be creative and exciting but at its worst it becomes dull, risk averse and more about not upsetting partners than finding solutions.
Far too often the disputes are dealt with by a meagre few ‘behind closed doors’ sessions so that a united front is presented in wider partnerships whilst back biting and rumours of fall-out undermine the gloss of the partnerships that are presented to the wider public.
At present there are too many areas where we have work moving along on separate paths and you know a car crash is coming, in the northwest when we developed our regional strategy we avoided the tough questions for just a bit too long and the biggest criticism I have heard of ‘Future Northwest’ is that it is all things to all people – a partnership strategy that was good but just missed in the end by not having a final scrap.
In the current health reforms I seem to have very different discussions when local authorities are in the room to the ones where it is dominated by clinicians – both seem to have very different views on the role of health & wellbeing boards and the powers of elected officials. Health reform is underway and ignoring the scrap: please can we have it now so we can bring clarity sooner rather than later?
In a grown up world – even, dare I say it, a ‘big society’ we must be allowed to have disagreements in our partnerships. These should be manageable but should allow us to dig deeper into issues in order to find true solutions. It should also allow us to take more risks – something sadly lacking from our partnerships in recent years.