The Role of the Voluntary Sector in Cross-Sector Collaborations: An NHS Multispecialty Community Provider

Haslam, Daniel (2020). The Role of the Voluntary Sector in Cross-Sector Collaborations: An NHS Multispecialty Community Provider. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis explores the role of the voluntary sector in the delivery of an NHS Multispecialty Community Provider (MCP) pilot project in the area of Erewash, England. It draws on engaged research, informed by ethnographic and action research traditions through which a broad range of data were gathered in order to present a detailed picture of the project in practice. In doing so it contributes both to the academic literature and to the work of practitioners and policy makers.
Firstly, it identifies the tensions inherent in the voluntary sector’s role as ‘transmission belt’ organisations, providing empirical evidence of this role in practice and building on Albareda’s (2018) original conception. In addition, it suggests the pressure to work in this way risks damaging the sector’s relationship with both service users and communities. Secondly, the thesis explores the ways that trust, power, and control interact in collaborative contexts, utilising Bachman’s (2001) notion of different ‘traditions’ to suggest that the voluntary and public sectors reflect different ways of working that are interactions of ‘personal’ and ‘system’ trust and power. These different traditions surface tensions that make collaboration difficult. Thirdly, the thesis identifies the complex leadership dynamics at play in collaborative contexts and the dominance of NHS hierarchical aspects, particularly in relation to clinical professionalism. Despite this, the thesis builds on Huxham and Vangen’s (2000a) notion of ‘making things happen’ to identify the positive and proactive leadership role the voluntary sector can enact in practice. However, it cautions that, as both directive and facilitative forms of leadership are needed in collaborative contexts, an increased focus on public sector-initiated collaborations could paradoxically make the sector less collaborative.
The thesis offers suggestions for both policy and practice, as well as identifying potential ways to take the research forward in the future.

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