What is collaborative working?

Collaborative working or partnership working – includes a whole spectrum of ways that two or more organisations can work together. It can cover informal networks and alliances, joint delivery of projects or full merger.

Collaborative working can last for a fixed length of time or can form a permanent arrangement.

Why collaborate?

Collaborative working between voluntary organisations has been growing. Over reccent years there has been:

  • An increased government emphasis on the voluntary sector’s role in public service delivery
  • A growing trend by funders and commissioners to seek applications and tenders that involve joint or consortia bids
  • A drive within the sector to improve its quality for beneficiaries
  • A need for more efficient use of resources.

Types of collaborative working

Structures for collaborative working include:

  • Separate organisations maintain their independence, but work jointly on some activities or functions
  • Organisations with resources or expertise offer assistance to other organisations, e.g. 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.

Collaborative working can be used to:

  • Carry out charitable activities, e.g. service delivery, campaigning, policy work
  • Share premises or support functions, e.g. payroll, purchasing, fundraising
  • Improve strategic efficiency.

Explore the potential benefits and risks of collaboration

Useful links

Explore the process of collaborative working from from formal mergers to sharing back office staff. This section is a wiki so you can add your own experiences to the resources.

Visit KnowHow NonProfit collaborative working resources

An introduction to how community organisations can enhance commissioning and improve the bidding process through collaboration.

Visit Locality Benefiting everyone: Commissioning community organisations and collaboration section

Work the stages of supporting a collaborative venture. This guide sets out the key issues you will face and provides a framework for organising and planning your support. 

Visit Locality Collaboration for communities: Giving power to partnership resource