Webinar: Effective partnership working, 26 March 2024


Take Note © Kirkley Creates, Nick Ilott

Webinar recording and presentation


  • Marianna Hay, Co-founder & Director, Take Note
  • Emily Webb, Co-founder & Director, Take Note
  • Tyler Atwood, Founder & Director, Your Next Move
  • Michelle Lee, Manager, Your Next Move
  • Alison Holdom, Funding Manager Lead - Creative, Confident Communities, Esmée

Welcome, introductions and housekeeping

Alison Holdom

Hello, everybody. Thank you for coming today. Welcome to this webinar on effective partnership working and collaboration. We're really pleased you could join us today and I hope you find it useful. I'm Alison Holdom. I'm a Lead Funding Manager for Creative, Confident Communities here at Esmée Fairbairn. For accessibility, we have asked all of today's panelists to do an audio description of themselves. So, I am an older white woman and I've got short length hair, and I'm wearing glasses and sitting in our office in London.

I'm joined today by Marianna Hay and Emily Webb from Take Note who will be leading the webinar today, and Tyler Atwood and Michelle Lee from Your Next Move, who will also be presenting. My colleagues, Philippa and Luna are also on hand in the background to help with the question and answer session, but also with any questions or any difficulties you have with accessing anything during this webinar. I'm now going to hand over to Emily and ask all the other panel members to do a brief audio description. Emily, if you could then hand on that would be great. Thanks.

Emily Webb

Hi, everyone. Lovely to see you all, virtually. I'm Emily Webb, I'm Co-founder and Co-director of Take Note and I'm also a producer at Good Chance Theatre, where we've created The Walk with Amal and The Jungle, among other projects, and where we work in partnership with hundreds of arts, humanitarian, and other organisations to create theatre with displaced artists across the world. It's a real pleasure to be here and just to introduce my audio description - my pronouns are she/her, I'm a white woman with long dark hair and bright orange earrings, with a shelf full of wicker baskets of lots of random stuff behind me. Marianna over to you.

Marianna Hay

Hi, everyone. It's lovely to be here. I'm Co-founder and Co-director of Take Note. I'm also the Founder and Director of a charity called Orchestras for All. My pronouns are she/her, and I'm a white woman with blue eyes, blonde/brown hair, I'm wearing a headband, and I'm speaking to you today from Edinburgh.

Tyler Atwood

Hello everyone, my name is Tyler Atwood. I'm Founder and Director of Your Next Move. We utilise hip hop culture to educate and inspire young people through participation and performance. For my audio description, I am a Black man with brown eyes. My pronouns are he/him. My hair is long but today it’s tied-up with a hair band. And I'll pass over to my colleague Michelle.

Michelle Lee

Hi everyone. I'm Michelle Lee and General Manager at Your Next Move working with Tyler and my pronouns are she/her and I'm a white woman. I've got blonde hair just past my shoulders. I'm wearing glasses, and I am in the dining room in my house in Gloucester.

Alison Holdom

Thanks everybody. That's great. So just a bit more about today's webinar. At Esmée, we know that working in partnership is key to achieving impact and long-term change. For example, our Creative, Confident Communities funding puts collaboration at the centre of the funding priorities. However, we also know that working with others can come with challenges and that working with funders, including Esmée Fairbairn, can be one of those challenges.

Before we hand over to Emily and Marianna to lead this session, I just want to do a couple of bits of housekeeping for you. Live captioning is available for this session, so please click the closed captions button at the bottom of this window and then you can see them within Zoom. You can post questions at any point using the Q&A facility, which you can find at the bottom of your screens. And I'd also encourage you to vote for questions submitted by other people if you'd really like to see that question asked, and you can do this by clicking the thumbs up icon icon next to the question. Philippa and Luna will be in the background, typing some responses to questions and we'll try and answer as many as we can. But if there's anything we miss, we'll try and answer it afterwards.

So a little bit about Take Note. We funded Take Note's work in 2020, and the reason we did that was because we had begun to see the growth of collaboration in the work we funded, and the way people approached us was changing as well. We wanted to understand models that made collaboration work most effectively and how we can support and interact with them. So we're absolutely delighted to be hosting this webinar with Take Note today to share with you more about their approach and the practical tools they've developed to support more equitable and impactful partnership work. I will now hand over to Emily and Marianna.

Marianna Hay

Thank you so much, Alison. And it's really great to be here with you all today and to have the opportunity to tell you a bit more about our work. So as Alison has outlined in her introduction, Take Note is a sector support initiative that's all about celebrating the power of collaboration, finding ways to maximise impact whilst also finding ways to overcome its challenges. The idea for Take Note derived from the direct experience of both me and Emily of leading small arts for social impact organisations, and in those roles designing and driving a number of complex partnership projects together with other organisations. So we know first hand both how great, but also how hard this kind of work can be.

One project that I led, Where Music Meets, is an example of this. It was a project that brought together young people from orchestras for all which is an Esmée funded organisation that I founded that's all about opening up access to inclusive ensemble music making. And in this project, we brought together young people from Orchestras for All with other young people from projects across the musical spectrum. So, classically trained musicians from the Royal Academy of Music, hip hop and R&B artists from East London Arts and Music, and young jazz musicians from the National Youth Jazz Collective. And together with that group, we work with them to co-create and co-compose a new musical work that celebrated their collective musical diversity.

To give you a sense of the scale and ambition of this project, I'm going to share with you a short clip of the final performance of this work, which happened at Leeds arena. On stage all the young people who were involved in co-creating the work there's about 25 of them in total are dotted about the stage, performing alongside the 120 members of National Orchestra for All. So as you can see, this was a really ambitious project with, I think, quite amazing artistic outcomes. The collaborative element of it allowed us to deliver an extraordinary artistic experience for all the young people elevating their roles as both co-creators and co-composers. And it also exposed all the young people to a wide range of new musical styles and genres.

On a practical side, the nature of three organisations working together in this way meant we were also able to build a much bigger audience for that performance that you've just seen. And, we were also able to pool and share resources such as musical equipment, which helped with our costs. But, and what the video doesn't show you, it was also a really, really challenging project. Orchestras for All had to drive every element of it - from its inception, to raising the money, planning out the logistics of delivery, not just the end result that you've seen there, but also all the workshops that went into co-creating the piece, as well as rehearsals with the full ensemble. We then had to wrangle people from each organisation to evaluate the impact of the project on behalf of their young people. Report this back to us. We then had to compile all that together and then report all this back to our funder, Arts Council England. So, the experience despite its many benefits, made me quite cautious about embarking on future partnership projects of this scale, especially when our own team at Orchestras for All at that time was so small and overstretched.

So why should we collaborate when it's this challenging? At Take Note, we believe that we've got to get much better and more creative and strategic about working together and finding ways to collectively overcome the shared challenges that we're all individually trying to address. I think we've also got to find ways to connect with partners outside of our own sectors to bring in new ideas and new ways of working together. Over three years of action research at Take Note, we've been testing our hypothesis about collaboration, and what it can achieve, with evidence of this drawn directly from supporting partnership working out in communities. To date, we've focused our work primarily on partnership projects, but we're now starting to apply much of what we've learned to longer-term strategic partnerships too. And as you can see from the slide, the impact of working together is striking, ranging from opportunities to share knowledge, amplify ambition, and perhaps most importantly, working together to catalyse real systemic change.

Many funders, I think also want to see evidence of collaborative working in the projects that they're funding. I think they're starting to recognize that there's more they can do to fund this kind of work properly and support its unique complexities. And we'll talk a bit more about our work with funders and Esmée in particular later in this presentation.

And that's really where Take Note comes in. So together with our founding funders, the Footwork Trust as well as Esmée, we set out to develop ways of supporting organisations to work better together to maximize their collective impact and also help them overcome the challenges of working with others. And over the past three years, we've been able to offer both funding and support to five partnership projects across the country, delivering a variety of arts based projects exploring issues such as human rights, food, poverty and youth engagement. Our work has brought us into contact with a wide range of organisations from grassroots community arts organisations and food banks, right through to Amnesty International and the NHS. And in addition to our core projects, we've also been developing other models to support organisation on a bespoke basis to help develop their own partnership practice, through working across our partnership portfolio of over 20 organisations.

Through all this work, we've developed a series of tools and resources in the form of our Collaboration Guidebook, which is aimed to help support collaboration every step of the way, from joint project development, planning, delivery and evaluation. And throughout creating these resources, we've always tried to keep overstretched organisations working at maximum capacity in mind. To this end, and to help people who've got very little time prioritise, we've developed our three golden principles and their accompanying tools - borne out of our research and our feedback from organisations that we've supported. And if you can, we'd always try and recommend trying to incorporate these principles every time you work in partnership with others. The first of these principles is to clarify your why - to make sure that everyone involved in the project is aligned around the shared impact you want the work to have. The second principle is to take time at the start to lay the strongest possible foundations for your work together. This includes allocating roles and responsibilities, drawing up partnership agreements and addressing any potentially challenging power dynamics across the group.

And finally, the third principle to make sure that as the project develops, to try and give as much time and attention to not just delivering the activity, but also to the work with each other and the partnership itself. As we go through each of these principles in more detail and share the tools with you, please bear in mind these tools aren't meant to dictate or to be used exactly as we've suggested step by step. These are more provocations really to help you think about how you approach partnership working at the moment, what maybe sometimes you miss, and work out which bits, if any, you might like to take forward into your own collaborations and projects.

Emily Webb

So, to go into a bit more detail on clarifying your why. The first golden principle as Marianne said that we've established over the years of our action research and from our own experience of running small arts organisations is that it's really fundamental to talk together about why you're undertaking this collaboration. And we know from our experience, that it's easy to go into a partnership, kind of assuming that you are doing it for the same reasons and have the same goals, but actually to clarify that and to work through the differences that might come up through those conversations, and agree what you're all aiming towards together feels so fundamental to a successful collaborative project and a successful partnership.

The questions which are about to appear on your screen, are the key ones that we would recommend asking. So what's the impact that you're trying to achieve? What's the need for the project that you're thinking of doing and why do you each individually as organisations want to do this project? And discussions around these questions will help align the partners to rally around the reasons that you feel passionate about the project. And to be really clear from the outset about what you're trying to do so that you can come back to that as a kind of calling card further down the line.

We're very aware that developing this thinking takes time, but it does from what we've seen consistently strengthen the partnership throughout the project and the impact of the project itself, which of course is why we're all doing this in the first place. And that final question is something that we hadn't actually realised was so key when we started our Take Note work. But we've found that partnership projects really are at their strongest when each organisation can track back to their own organisational objectives, and really explicitly make the case to themselves that the work isn't only achieving something positive in and of itself, but it's also supporting each partner involved to further their own missions, which helps with buy-in and commitment to the project throughout.

We have a tool for this in the Collaboration Guidebook to help organisations identify their own goals. But for the sake of this presentation, for each of our golden principles, we've just picked a couple of key tools to shine a light on, rather than going through the whole guidebook as that would take a while.

So, to go into the first of these. The first tool for clarifying why you want to do this project is a really simple one. It's essentially a set of questions that we've devised through and with our partnership projects around key things that we would always recommend asking. Firstly, to yourselves, before you embark on developing partnerships, and then as a group of partners, which are centered around the key questions that I outlined before, around impact, need, and organisational goals. And then our top key tool is undertaking a collaborative impact map or theory of change. We know that many of you will have done theories of change before, or some of you may not have done, but the difference is how we take you through the step by step processes and doing this with partners collaboratively, and using it as a conversation and clarification to come back to throughout your project and to check in and make sure you're on track with achieving your aims and your outcomes.

And you can see here an example of a completed impact map from the other project funded by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation in Gloucester, as well as Your Next Move's project. This project was led by Gloucester Cathedral with cross-sector partners including a photography charity, a refugee support organisation, an access charity and the NHS. So, lots of organisations coming together from very different sectors, with different ways of working. They used our step-by-step guide, some of which you can see on the screen now, which supports partners to do this collaboratively. Writing individual versions of the mission and challenge, and then coming together to share these, and refine a collective vision. Dividing into groups to consider outcomes for the people that the project is working with, and then sharing these back with the group and agreeing a set of outcomes. That speaks to the whole project, as well as checking in with the wider organisational objectives for all the partners. And this group and the other groups that we've worked with found it a really beneficial process. It's one of the tools and approaches that we have found from the reports from organisations as being most valuable especially when working cross-sector, being able to come together and create a set of shared vocabulary that you all buy into and agree on feels like it's at the core of what makes a successful partnership project.

Marianna Hay

The second principle - setup - is key. We've consistently found that collaborations are most effective when partners build those strong foundations and take time to plot out each partner's roles and responsibilities and create a culture of shared accountability, clarity, and commitment from everyone involved. Agreeing all that at the start of the project and getting as much of it down into a comprehensive partnership agreement makes it much easier to keep everyone and everything on track as the project develops, and inevitably gets more complicated. And we've consistently found that when partners invest time and resource at the start, things perhaps not surprisingly, are much less likely to go wrong further down the line.

As part of the setup period, taking the time to address any power dynamics. And the importance of doing this is something that's come up frequently, both in our action research and through other research, for example, by partner studies around partnership equity led by King's College London. We all know that diversity in partnerships adds huge value and indeed that's why lots of us might partner together in the first place. But, it can also present real challenges, especially when bringing together organisations of different sizes, scales, and status. So we have a tool that helps partners to acknowledge and address how variations between them could affect the ways in which they work together. Using this simple power dynamics tool as a springboard, we hope we can facilitate open conversations between the group and help partners to assess honestly where power imbalances might lie, and how to mitigate against these.

As well as this tool, we've got lots of practical resources that support open lines of communication and help ensure a fair distribution of workload. For example, partnership agreement templates, a collaborative project planning tool, and also a set of questions that will help you evaluate your project collaboratively and equitably.

Emily Webb

And our final golden principle is to give the partnership as much love as the project. Of course we totally understand the need to get stuck into planning and delivery of the project and how little time there often is available to do this. But if you are able to allocate some time and resource to the partnership itself, particularly by having meetings at key points through the partnership cycle, and creating space to check in on the health of the partnership at these meetings rather than just the details of project delivery, makes a huge difference. We know only too well from our other roles, how precious and limited time and resource can be. But one of our hopes is that these tools can help maximise that scarce time.

So, in terms of those key meetings that I mentioned that we call 'Huddles', I'll just give you a brief overview of how we how we suggest structuring those. The Huddles are essentially four partnership meetings that form the backbone of the Take Note model. And once you've prepared the partnership and decided who you're going to partner with and why - we then suggest the whole group comes together at key points throughout the project. Firstly, in the setup to clarify the why as we've talked about. Then to have a kick-off meeting, where you're agreeing the roles and responsibilities, and collaboratively planning both the delivery and the evaluation of the project. Then, crucially, to have a check in Huddle in the middle of the project to review progress both on the partnership and the project itself. And then to have a wrap-up Huddle at the end, which enables you to have that collaborative evaluation of the project and the partnership, and also to reflect on partnership successes and challenges and to establish how you want to take those through into other collaborative work with other organisations, as well as where you want to take this partnership project next, if at all. None of this is rocket science, but we've found it to be a really valuable structure for having those moments of connection and communication.

At the start, we as Take Note facilitated these Huddles, but we are very aware that we can't always be in the room, and wanted to create a tool that any partnership group could use to take themselves through the Huddles. So, our Huddles tool suggests an agenda for each meeting, flags which tools from the guide that might be useful at each stage, and then also has some facilitation suggestions based on what we've learned, and what we found works best to create a supportive, collaborative, and open environment. And to achieve that connection and communication.

One of the tools that we created is this partnership health check, which is essentially a set of prompts. And each one is based around our partnership values that we lay out at the start of the Collaboration Guidebook. And it's for each partner to use at the mid-point of a partnership, or as many times as you want throughout and against each prompt. For example, in the communication section, there is open and frequent communication among partners. The partner then rates whether they feel the partnership hasn't yet begun doing this, whether it's emerging, established or the partnership is really excelling. And essentially that can become a starting point for a conversation to compare where you feel the partnership is at around these different themes, identifying any concerns or sticking points, or differences of opinion, and also using it as a chance to celebrate where you're doing really well in a particular area.

Emily Webb

And now we're going to move on to hear from Tyler and Michelle who have used some of these tools and hopefully have found them valuable. So I'd like to welcome back Tyler and Michelle to Zoom. Tyler, as founder and director, and Michelle as manager at Your Next Move, you were integral to the project that we worked with them on at Take Note. Your Next Move is a really brilliant community interest company that uses hip hop culture to inspire young people in Gloucester, and Your Next Move was the lead partner on a collaboration between them, a youth music organisation called the Music Works which is also funded by Esmée, a community centre and food bank, a friendship café, a youth support team and the police. And this partnership project, which was funded via Take Note by Esmée Fairbairn and supported by GUST as our partner and incubator for new projects in Gloucester, used hip hop DJing, graffiti, and other art forms to explore food poverty, and to give young people a space to express themselves and the challenges they encounter around this, and created a film of this work among other things. So we are really delighted to have you both here Tyler and Michelle, thank you so much. And Tyler, I'll pass over to you to hear a bit about your experience of partnership working.

Tyler Atwood

Thank you, Emily. Hello everyone. Just to say again, thank you very much for the opportunity to be here. It's great to be able to speak with you all about the work in which we're able to do, which was funded and supported through Take Note via Esmée Fairbairn. The impact that this project was able to have has been massive, and there's ways that we've been able to push forward a number of different aspects of it that's taken place within Gloucester. I want hone in particularly on partnership working.

As an organisation, we work a lot in partnership with organisations but this project with Take Note's support allowed us to do things differently. A few examples of this. Firstly, we were able to take more time to build the project together, making it right for the people we were trying to reach, as well as right for the partners. This meant we were able to adjust the project so that it worked for partners of different sizes, with different capacities.

The second point would be that this project actively encouraged us to form partnerships with new types of organisations from different parts of the community. For example, a particular partnership with the Gloucester policing team, in particular a Police Community Support Officer (or PCSO). This relationship itself was very important for us to be able to have as it meant that we were able to have new young people come to our programmes and reach people in the community that we hadn't worked with previously. And then the insights of that PCSO themselves was also very important in terms of their experience of working with vulnerable young people. They are really informed about particular ways to approach building those relationships as they can be very hard to build. And they're also now informed in the way in which Your Next Move works, and because of that we've been able to continue that partnership and it's extended beyond working with that particular PCSO. We've been able to then work with others from the big policing teams. The partnership from their perspective was also very positive as it meant that they were able to come to the work in which we were doing in their uniform, and it meant that the young people will be able to start to recognise them through their uniform. But aside from that, it also helped to break down to a degree some of the barriers that exist between young people and having a positive association with the police force within Gloucester.

Then thirdly, there's been a longer term impact of this project on the way in which people and organisations in Gloucester work together. Over the years, that cluster has been growing within the creative sector. There has been a growth in the amount of partnership working and more of an openness to share existing work, work practices, and learning to help work be more impactful within Gloucester's communities. And this work has happened on a cross-sector scale. The Connect, Collaborate, Create project though, has been a key example of this within Gloucester's creative community, where unconventional partnerships across sectors has led to a very positive outcome and more cross-sector partnerships. I feel that the Take Note project has really encouraged this to happen on a bigger, larger scale. Gloucester is on such a journey with lots of people really starting to work together on larger scales, and Your Next Move is really proud to be able to be a part of that. And now I'm going to hand over to my colleague Michelle.

Michelle Lee

Hi, everyone. Thank you, Tyler. And so Tyler has mentioned the difference that Take Note's approach to partnership working had on the project itself, but also on the wider and longer term impact on the communities that we're working with, and with the sector in Gloucester. So I thought it'd be helpful to talk about some of the tools and the approaches that we worked through with Take Note that we found particularly useful along the way.

Firstly, I'm going to talk about looking after the partnership. Partnerships can be complicated, and, as Marianna talks about with her example, it can be challenging and require a lot of work to actually manage effectively. And I think it could just be really easy to dive into the next exciting project that you want to deliver and think about what needs to be done when and just get on with the delivery. And that happens, because when we're working with organisations of different sizes, capacities, in different sectors, this project is fitting in with the wider work that they're doing. So it's easy to just dive in and get on with that delivery. As much as we want to give that time to talk as a partnership and work out how we can do things better and communicate, sometimes it just doesn't get that attention it deserves. And so this is where the project with Take Note felt very different for us and had a big impact, because we took time to think about how well, or not, we were working together as a group when we came together. So an example of what guided us to do that was the partnership health check. With Take Note's support, when we came together as a group, we took a moment to pause and ask ourselves some questions like how well we were communicating, whether were feeling clear about our roles in the project, and whether we thought there could be things we could do better.

So, some examples. At the beginning of the project, partners weren't as clear on the shared vision. That really improved throughout the project, once we'd come up with the impact map collectively. Then later on in the project, one thing that was flagged was communication - that was because there were lots of different partners of different sizes engaged in different ways. And that prompted us to think about who needs to be updated, when, and how, so we just shifted our communications with the partners slightly.

Secondly, being really clear on what we wanted to achieve for the project and how we wanted to do this. We were really supported by Take Note and one example is the impact map and going through that collectively as a group was particularly useful and having a framework to do that. We are all different organisations, in different sectors and of different sizes, so for us to take the time together to say why this group and why are we doing this really helped with that shared vision. We thought about what we wanted young people and families to experience, what we wanted them to feel through taking part in the project, what we wanted to see the project achieve long-term, or what the legacy might look like. And it was just a real hook for us. So, when we came to decision making, we could go back to the impact map to guide us through those questions and the next steps we wanted to take. And so overall, these tools have really encouraged Tyler and I and the team to think about what does this work take for everybody that gets involved? So what resources do we need to build into funding applications and project plans to really hold and manage a project like this? And so that learning overall has been really, really important for Your Next Move. And yeah, that's all from me. So I'll hand back over to Marianna.

Marianna Hay

Thank you so much, Tyler and Michelle. It's so helpful to hear first hand about your experience. And there will be a chance to ask Tyler and Michelle further questions at the end as well.

Marianna Hay

So as part of our action research, we also wanted to find a way to create a fundraising application process that to our minds was fit for purpose in relation to partnership working. Traditional fundraising applications are as many of you will know and have experienced, inherently singular activities, usually involving one person from one organisation sitting at a computer, writing each stage of the proposal. The problem with this from a collaboration perspective is that it puts all the pressure on one organisation and thereby creates an imbalance of work right from the beginning. Moreover, it doesn't really give the funder any sense of buy-in from other partners, a sense of the group dynamic or the motivation for working together. So we wanted to design a process that cultivated a culture of shared responsibility and commitment from everyone involved right from the start, but it also gave us as the people making decisions about funding a clearer picture of the group and its dynamic.

The most effective way of doing this and we tried a few different ways was to integrate the co-creation of the project impact map that Emily talked about, into the second stage of the application process, followed by a subsequent individual reflection from each member of the group on how they found the process of creating that impact map, their own personal motivations for taking part in the project, and also any reflections they had on the strengths and potential challenges of the group and its dynamic. So this allowed us to both hear individually from everyone whilst also building in a collaborative activity right from the beginning. Through funding partnership projects in this way, we've now learned quite a bit about what organisations require funding wise in order to work effectively together and what works when it comes to joined up fundraising.

So, in addition to our collaboration guidebook, we've also created a toolkit. We've called it a blueprint for funders, in which we've highlighted our top three golden principles again, for how partnerships can be more effectively supported. So first, we suggest that additional funding should be made available that supports the group to come together regularly and to give the partnership as much love as the project, that golden principle that Emily talked about earlier. And then in terms of the application process itself, we strongly recommend creating opportunities for the groups to come together during the fundraising process. And suggest if possible, that this this time should be compensated and paid for by the funder, and then as a follow-up to this group activity to also build in a way for each individual voice to be heard.

At this point, I'm delighted to be joined by Alison from Esmée again. Esmée, and Alison in particular, have been brilliant champions of our work at Take Note, and we're so pleased that she's able to share a few reflections on Esmée own approach to supporting partnership working. Thanks Alison.

Alison Holdom

Thanks, Marianna. So at Esmée our learning about funding collaborations has highlighted three issues to consider. And for us, that's capacity, equity and power. So how do we know that our processes are not creating an unequitable sharing of workload amongst the partners? How can we be sure power is shared equally among partners? How do we ensure that a collaboration is not working against or causing a shift in an individual organisation's aims? And how can we communicate with partners? How can we communicate with everybody in a partnership? And when we looked at those three areas of learning and looked at the golden principles that Take Note's blueprint document provided we could see such clear overlap.

So, I want to address each of those golden principles. The first one, which is about fund partners' time to collaborate well. So actually, in our funding guidance FAQ section, we actually do say you can include anticipated costs of setting up and coordinating networks or partnerships in your application. But perhaps we should make that clearer because it's in the FAQ, it's not right on the front page of everything. In practice, almost everyone applying to us to support a network or a collaboration does apply for funding for a post to run it, and, if they don't, we advise them to do that. And we advise them to add costs any bids coming to us to do that. Far fewer people apply for costs of each partners involvement. And that's something that should probably be more aware of and encouraged because we could consider those costs. Far fewer people apply for the cost of setting up a partnership. And we've looked at this to try and work out why this might be the case. And I think the problem is that by the time an application reaches us, some of the preparatory work has already been done. Some of the relationship building has already happened because of the type of information we require to process a proposal through to a grant.

So, we need to look at alternative routes to funding the pre-collaboration stage. We're thinking now, could we offer small grants, for example, through a dedicated fund for collaboration building, or could we use some of our other tools like Funding Plus, so that we could fund the costs of making the connections or feasibility work? Now, we have sometimes done that in the past, particularly for those types of collaborations that are a really strong fit to our strategy when we're developing our strategy. And it's really mutually beneficial for everybody involved, including us, but we need to think through a bit more clearly when, and how, and when we can offer that type of payment and make sure we understand what our role is as a funder in that type of arrangement.

If I look at the two second and third golden principles, I just consider those two together because they talk very much about the application process. And when we were considering about how we fund collaboration we looked at our current funding process. Now of course that requires a lead organisation for governance and financial management purposes, and we usually pay the money to one organisation. So, what we need to think about is how we work within those constraints, how we include, and communicate with more partners. For example, we could have more than one contact on a proposal, or we could ensure that our relationship goes beyond the main lead partner for every communication that we have with you, whether it's the grant offer or the mid-grant calls or any other conversation. We might not actually be able to shift far enough to fund people individually, but we are looking at other ways that we can involve more partners in the relationship with us. We do ask that partners are involved in online meetings and calls as part of the assessment process. And we do ask for confirmation from partners of the terms of their involvement, and making sure how that collaboration helps to maximize the project's impact. What is the impact that being involved helps them to achieve and trying to understand the roles that partners take, particularly around decision making and what expertise they're bringing.

However, we know our application process is just not tailored in a way that would encourage partners to work together during the application process. That lead organisation role really works against that. And we don't require a theory of change or an impact map. One of the reasons we don't require that is that we know they take time and resource, and if we made that a requirement of the proposal, we'd have to consider funding it, which obviously adds more consideration to how we do that. So that's quite a tricky one for us to work out.

Finally, in the blueprint, there is a note from Take Note about the funder wide approach, and really a call for a funder wide approach to collaboration. And we are bringing Take Note's work and other models of collaboration that we see through our funding to the attention of other funders, and particularly when we collaborate with them on funding projects. And we're learning from all those collaborations that we support, particularly at the moment. We are part of a very big collaboration called Local Motion, which is a group of funders and six partner places and that programme is going to have a huge impact on how we work with other funders, and how we collaborate with multiple grantees, and what processes learned through that are going to enable that to happen best.

Lastly, as a closing comment, we do appreciate the funding sector is not currently set up to support partnership well, particularly in terms of the governance of individual charities, the way applications are created, and the grant relationship. But most organisations and especially funders need partners to deliver their work. And so Take Note's work has really made us think about the potential of partnership, the time and the energy lost through the current arrangements that we as funders ask people to do; regranting, commissioning, negotiating, so we are going to take this further. We're going to think much more about how we can make our processes a magnifier, rather than a diluter of impact. But all of that at the moment is a work in progress. So I'm going to hand back to Marianna and Emily. Thank you.

Emily Webb

Thank you so much, Alison. It's really amazing to hear your reflections on all of that, both in terms of your honesty, but also really exciting to hear how you might take some of these things forward, particularly around funding partnership development work, and also involving more partners in the relationship with Esmée. That feels like wonderful kind of potential legacy for all of the work that we've been doing and the collaboration that we've had with you. So thank you so much for sharing that. I can see a couple of questions coming up in that relate to some of what you've just been talking about. And so we'll come to those in the Q&A section.

Emily Webb

To summarise, before we go to questions, we know that we have shared a lot today and there is lots more that sits behind it in the guidebook and in the research findings on our website. But we just wanted to just close by sharing a top recommendation from Take Note and Your Next Move around partnership working because we totally appreciate that everyone is super stretched and capacity is one of the biggest challenges. So I think it would be useful to distill a couple of the top key things. Michelle, I was wondering if you'd be happy to kick us off with the top recommendation

Michelle Lee

Yeah, I'll go. And my recommendation is to take time out at the beginning of the project, to think about any concerns or any kind of sticky bits that might come up throughout the project and be honest about them. So it's really about taking honesty as a value into the project, and then having a conversation when things are less stressful at the beginning about if this thing comes up how might might we explore this together. Then I think we can be much better equipped if and when that sticky thing does come up during the project.

Emily Webb

Thanks, Michelle. Tyler, do you want to go?

Tyler Atwood

Yeah, sure. And I guess mine would be about having conversations with potential partners right from the very beginning, so you can get a clearer understanding of where everyone is at. I feel that if you bring people in different stages of the process, things can get quite complicated. You may be tempted to bring people in when it seems relevant because their expertise may be better placed at a particular point. But once you've conceived the idea, having that conversation straight away so that you're communicating really clearly and addressing any potential dynamics upfront and giving people a full picture from as early as possible. So you may also get an understanding of where the skills will be better placed in elements the project that may necessarily not first come to light, but having a conversation with them at that early point is quite important. So illustrating the fact that communication is key.

Emily Webb

Brilliant, thanks, Tyler. Thanks, Michelle. Totally agree. And in terms of Take Note's recommendation. I think we would say that even with the limited capacities that we have talked about a lot we would recommend if it's possible to have regular check-ins with partners and have a standing agenda item on your other kind of delivery meeting agendas to talk about the partnership itself. Check in about how things are going, celebrate successes, and address challenges before they become problems, so that you can find solutions together and stay connected. That would be a kind of easy insert into the project meetings that you'd be having anyway.

We wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who's helped us develop this work and all of these tools particularly to Esmée and to Alison, and for your funding and your support, and for giving us this opportunity and all of the Esmée team who've made this webinar happen today. Thank you to Footwork as our main and founding funder, to the brilliant Tyler and Michelle for sharing your experiences today and for the amazingly impactful project that you created with us. And to everyone who's joined the webinar. We really appreciate you out there in the ether and your questions as well which we'll come to in a moment.

Esmée Fairbairn have shared a copy of the guidebook and links to other tools and this presentation in an email before the webinar, but just to answer one of those questions - we will do this again via Esmée after this presentation, so you will have a copy of everything that we have shared today. Please do use the guidebook as much as it's helpful. We'd love to know how you use it.

And just before we go to the Q&A, I'll very quickly come out of screen sharing the presentation and just give you a sense of the guidebook as it exists. So this is our tools page as you can see, and on here we have the Collaboration Guidebook. Which has all of our tools, the keystone tools that we've pulled out as some of the most important tools that we've created and shared with you today, the Huddles where we have the agenda and the facilitation recommendations, and the blueprint for funders that Alison was speaking to earlier and all of these tools are available on a website, totally open access and free, so feel free to go there and have a roam around just so you can get a sense of it as a whole tool. You can see in the contents that there are many, many tools within the guidebook that you are welcome to to browse, and that these are preceded by some setup and then we go into every one of the tools chronologically, taking you through a partnership journey from beginning to end. So I will now stop sharing my screen and we will take a few questions.

Q&A - Questions are in bold and numbered

Emily Webb

So, I will now stop sharing my screen and we will take a few questions. A couple of questions have come through from Leslie so I'll just read them out for ease.

1. Can the main driver organisation of the project charge more for doing that? That could cause problems. It does make the project a lot more expensive. And, sometimes it feels that money would be better spent on projects directly, rather than on developing partnerships. EF might be one of the few funders that see this process as beneficial. So it means lots of work for one funder only... bit catch 22!

I totally hear you Leslie, and just to take the first half of that question. I think in terms of the main driver of a project charging for doing that, I suppose that's partly what Alison was talking about in terms of structurally as a whole sector there's a kind of shift that needs to happen, but our suggestion would be that the budget builds in time to undertake the partnership working within the funding application, and that that time allocates the funding proportionately to how much time each partner will have to spend on the project. So there is a kind of parity in how much funding people are receiving for the time that they're doing based on how much input they're having into that partnership.

And to take the second half of your question, I totally hear you on when funding is so tight, not feeling able to put a huge amount of the budget into that partnership development. And I guess that is about the balance of proportionality. Of course, a small scale partnership is not going to be able to use all of these tools or do all of this partnership development work necessarily, but I suppose in acknowledging that there is a time commitment that is required to work in partnership at all, there is a kind of fairness in having that time compensated and that hopefully ultimately that means that the project impact is greater because there is more capacity to put into the partnership to make the partnership strong enough that the project is benefited, rather than the partnership being a drain on capacity that isn't compensated for.

Alison Holdom

Can I just quickly add to those? Your last point, I think is a really important point for us - that it's about how much impact, and if the impact is escalated by working in partnership or collaboration, that that's the thing that we as a funder will be looking for. How is the impact of what your doing get really, really larger if you're working in a collaboration, and how does that balance against those costs? That's how we would consider it.

2. Does every partnership need to assign admin or chairing roles or can they be shared effectively?

Emily Webb

Marianna, do you want to speak to the thinking we've done around lead partners and sharing those roles equitably?

Marianna Hay

I think there's also potentially a question around that facilitation of the partnership and does that need to be externally managed from someone who's not actually delivering the work itself and that's where Take Note started. And recognizing that it's very helpful to have almost a sort of neutral party within a partnership who's not there delivering the work, but can actually be responsible for holding the partnership together, and doing that kind of sharing of the meetings and facilitation. But we recognise that that's not always possible to have as kind of ideal world scenario stuff. And that's really why we've created the tools, particularly the Huddles tool, which as Emily outlined, it's got all the agendas of the meetings, as well as our top tips for how to facilitate a meeting that ensures that all voices in that meeting are heard, and that there's a kind of equitable spread of time for each organisation to present, or put forward what they might be struggling with or what they want help with.

So whilst it's not ideal, and as I say ideal state stuff would be having potentially a third party in there to help manage that facilitation, that brokering, sharing. We really hope that tool will go some way to making those meetings feel open, honest, equitable, inclusive. That's really what it's there to do, but we are here in the background if you do ever want some help or advice on how to manage that yourselves, please get in touch and we'd love to share a bit more with you about how we've approached that.

3. Its feel like a lot of information (text) I'm dyslexic. Is there any support we could get to help us access potential partnership and support us in this process?

Alison Holdom

It's a possibility, yes. And we do have an accessibility offers for people who are making applications to us and need some help, and if that was part of the accessibility payment to cover the building of the partnership and understanding then that's a possibility. It may also be something that we could look at through Funding Plus as well - how we can help to support people through that through the partnership process once the grant is in place. So there is a possibility of that from us.

Emily Webb

And Ian, just to reiterate, in terms of this presentation, it will be shared afterwards, so hopefully in terms of being able to go back and read through the text in the presentation in your own time, you are very welcome to do that. And if you have any questions or want to understand any more from us, then you're welcome to contact me and Marianna directly about it too. In terms of your other question about how intellectual property works. We actually haven't explored that in great detail. At Take Note, the partnership working that we are talking about, the idea of the collaboration is that the work together is created together and therefore the intellectual property of things that are generated like the impact map, etc, would be a collectively shared tool that any of the partners would be able to use, but in recommending doing partnership agreements, we would suggest that there's an intellectual property clause within those partnership agreements that makes all of that really clear.

4. How do you deal with people in your organisations (or other partners) who don’t see the value in giving time to setting up or managing the partnership?

Tyler Atwood

I think this can be something which crops up. I think if there is someone who doesn't see the value in giving the time to set up or manage the partnership, it makes sense to try to get to the root of the reason as to why they think that way. Do they consider the project itself to be a waste of time? Do they think that the resources can be better spent, or better placed on actually delivering the work? Is it that managing or setting up partnerships isn't necessarily a part of their skill set? So because it's not something they're necessarily skilled up in, maybe it's something that they don't necessarily value as much. There could be a number of reasons as to why they may think that. Ascertaining the reason why, will also help in addressing that same issue in the future.

It could also be that maybe that organisation is not the right fit for the partnership, and they think why are we trying to do this in the first place, when we can do this on our own? If that is their approach or mindset and you've done your best to try and find the reason as to why they're thinking that way - then it might make sense to say you aren't the right fit for this. It's harder if they are someone within your own organisation. You can't necessarily say to someone who's one of your colleagues that they can't be a part of it, though if you can that will certainly make it easier! But it's difficult if they're responsible for driving the partnership. It depends on what their role is, and how you need to address it. If they're in a very senior role, and if without having them on board makes it much harder to set up or manage the partnership, then it will require, again, a different approach or level of addressing the root issue.

Emily Webb

Brilliant. Thanks so much Tyler. And it's maybe worth saying that there are various tools in the guidebook that are aiming to address that. So it's worth going there as well. I'm really sorry, we've come to the end and run out of time for the last couple of questions, but I'll hand over to Alison and just to reassure you we will answer those questions in the follow up.

Thank yous

Alison Holdom

So huge thanks to Marianna and Emily from Take Note and Tyler and Michelle from Your Next Move. Thanks to you all for joining us. We've slightly gone over but I hope you found this session really useful. The recording, transcript, and the answers to any questions we didn't get to answer will all be shared on our website. And we'll be sharing more learning from our funding about partnership work and collaboration on our website and on our social media channels over the coming weeks. So please do keep an eye out for that. Finally, thank you all very much and goodbye.

Additional Q&A - given written answers during and after the webinar

1. I found the webinar very interesting and am trying to think of ways to apply it to what I do in my work. Are there any case studies of cross-sector partnerships working on nature-related projects? Thank you.


We will be sharing more learning and case-studies from cross-partnerships (including nature-based work) that we've supported in our next Insights Report, which we'll be publishing soon. You can sign up to our newsletter to find out when it's available, or just keep an eye out on our social media!

2. Hi, Tilly from Generation Rent. Do you have any tips on the sort of people within organisations to go to when suggesting partnership work (as in specific roles)? And, how to pitch projects and partnerships to them?

Marianna Hay

As we talked about in the webinar, partnership working can be a complex beast with many different elements to consider - potential impact of the project/alignment with own organisational goals/budget and capacity implications etc. We would always, therefore, recommend trying to speak initially to a) senior members/decision makers in the team to ensure full understanding of what the project will entail for their own organisation and staff and build buy-in of the project directly from the top and b) to the individual(s) on the team who will likely be responsible for doing ‘the doing’ for the project, as you will need to feel confident that they are engaged and enthusiastic about what is being proposed.

In terms of how to pitch projects and partnerships to them I would be prepared to speak about the top level vision for the project and what it might be able to deliver in terms of impact for the people taking part. I would also do your homework on the partner organisation to whom you might be ‘pitching’ and ensure you understand who their beneficiaries are and why this project might benefit them. If you can connect your vision for the project with the vision of the potential partner organisation then that will make the case stronger also. Saying all this, however, it’s also important, to give time if you can during the set up phase to co-create the overall vision for this project together so that everyone feels ownership and responsibility towards it. But a bit of preliminary work on this as part of bringing a partner on board would undoubtedly be useful.

3. In terms of having maximum impact in bringing about change, are there any specific types of partnership models that are most effective? I'm thinking along the lines of affiliation, franchise, kitemark (as in Living Wage Foundation)?

Marianna Hay

As we mentioned in the webinar, we have principally worked with groups who were coming together to deliver a time limited partnership project and haven’t had as much experience with different models/longer term collaborations, although we are now starting to apply the approach we’ve developed to other more long-term strategic collaborations. So we may have more to say on this in the future!


If what you're interested in is models for scaling your work, this toolkit from Spring Impact might be useful to explore.