Partnerships in the Youth Sector

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Partnerships, collaborations, cooperation between sectors ...these are words and phrases that have been used within the youth sector for decades. The ideas have been endorsed in the policies of governments at all levels; they have been asserted and advocated by the community sector. They are words and phrases that have been used in hope, in anger and as a challenge, in a belief in their magic. Sometimes we use the terms usefully, sometimes loosely, sometimes with a naïve belief that it will be easy to move outside ‘silos’ and seek ‘joined up solutions’. Yet we know that the reality of practice is much harder than that. Attempts at collaboration stutter and fail; potential partnerships don’t get off the ground; we settle sometimes for uneasy cooperation and acknowledgement. Sometimes it’s easier to work in our separate organisations, and sometimes this separate work continues despite the obvious needs of young people that remain un-met and the opportunities for joint responses that are unrealised. But sometimes those partnerships and collaborations soar - and take us somewhere else. Sometimes there’s excitement and trust and great outcomes for young people - much more than we could have achieved separately. Partnerships and collaboration can provide youth workers with both opportunity and challenge. Recent Codes of Ethical Practice for Youth Workers frequently include responsibilities for ‘Cooperation and Collaboration’ and these clearly locate the primary rationale for such approaches as ensuring the best outcomes for young people: "Youth workers seek to cooperate and collaborate with others in order to secure the best possible outcomes for young people... Collaboration between workers is an essential component of ethical practice as it seeks to ensure the best possible outcomes for young people." The study of partnerships, collaboration and cooperation has, in itself, developed fields of inquiry across many sectors, including management, business, health and education - and many of these sectors are represented in the examples in this publication.


Fiona Taylor

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