Investigating Partnership Working in Voluntary and Community Organisations: Delivering Learning and Skills

Britton, Helen (2016). Investigating Partnership Working in Voluntary and Community Organisations: Delivering Learning and Skills. EdD thesis The Open University.



This qualitative research study examines the perceptions and experiences of individuals who deliver learning and skills training as part of multi-agency and cross-sector collaborative partnership arrangements. It asks the question: ‘How does the experience of delivering learning and skills development in partnerships with other organisations affect voluntary and community organisations?’

The findings from twenty-five, semi-structured interviews, demonstrate a complex and often highly contentious picture of collaborative working practice. This study reveals a number of contradictory themes concerning increased levels of risk-taking and risk-avoidance; the importance of the role of trust; resource and capacity inequalities and the increasing levels of expectation to do more with less in a challenging funding environment. It questions the basis on which policy decisions are being constituted and the increasing expectation for organisations to work in partnership. The evidence base is not fully representative of the perceptions and experiences of individuals. It indicates a lack of understanding of how the highly differentiated nature of voluntary and community organisations, and their partners, experience partnership-working and the implications this may have for learners. The review of the literature for this research study adopted a broad ‘brushstroke’. It did so in order to examine, and to attempt to understand, the complex, conceptual and theoretical ‘landscape’ involving voluntary and community partnership activity. This research suggests that partnership can be better understood through a meta-theoretical framework. In theorising the role of partnership, this thesis presents a multi-theoretical model to represent some of the tensions inherent in inter-organisational collaboration. It integrates theories around trust, organisation and paradox to articulate a layered conceptual typology.

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