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What is collaborative working?

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Guide to the different types of collaborative working

Collaborative working – also known as joint or partnership working – covers a variety of ways that two or more organisations can work together. Options range from informal networks and alliances, through joint delivery of projects to full merger.

Collaborative working can last for a fixed length of time or can form a permanent arrangement. What these options have in common is that they involve some sort of exchange, for mutual advantage, that ultimately benefits end users.

In recent years, interest in collaborative working has been growing, driven by the sector's drive for effectiveness and efficiency, government policy and public opinion.

Working with others can offer opportunities to:

  • deliver new, improved or more integrated services
  • make efficiency savings through sharing costs
  • develop a stronger, more united voice
  • share knowledge and information.

Types of collaborative working

  • Separate organisations maintain their independence, but work jointly on some activities or functions
  • Organisations with resources or expertise offer assistance to other organisations, eg a large national organisation working with a small local group
  • A new organisation to do joint work on some activities or functions
  • A group structure where a 'parent' organisation governs a group of 'subsidiary' organisations
  • Merger to form a new organisation working as one body on all activities

Work which can be done collaboratively

Almost any voluntary or community sector activity can be done in collaboration:

  • Charitable activities, for example service delivery, campaigning, policy work
  • Sharing premises or support functions, for example payroll, purchasing, fundraising
  • Improving strategic efficiency, for example co-ordination, joint management 

Find out about different ways of working collaboratively.

Last reviewed: 18 November 2016

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 18 November 2016

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