Collaboration is key

Katy Savage
Katy Savage
Director of Partnerships

Partnerships are a recurring theme of this impact blog series, be it our long-term partnership with NHS England to build  into Health & Justice services, or the coalition of over 60 organisations we built around our #Shortsighted campaign.

In her outgoing blog as Chief Executive, Christina Marriott observed that people often think we are 3 or 4 times larger than we are. It’s true that we work hard. But the scale of our impact – particularly given the small size of our team – is only possible through collaboration and the careful building of smart partnerships.

In the latest edition of Third Sector Magazine, one commentator characterised collaborative work as “a total pain – but a necessary one”. We limit the potential for pain by building relationships based on shared values or, at the very least, a mutual appreciation of those values. It’s not enough to partner up because you recognise that you each have something the other organisation needs or wants – or even that you broadly want the same goal. For us, that “make or break” value is often around co-production – an acknowledgement of the power imbalances inherent in our work and an openness to shifting that power.

Over the last 12 months we’ve worked in partnership with over 190 organisations, including 32 referral partners, 24 academic institutions, 22 Police and Crime Commissioners and police services and 67 sector organisations.

Those partners range from central government and key statutory agencies, notably NHS England and HM Courts & Tribunals Service, to major national charities, such as St Mungo’s and St Giles Trust, to smaller and specialist organisations, such as Maslaha and Brighton Women’s Centre. We might be a small London-based charity, but through our partners we’re able to work across England: we’ve worked with organisations from Middlesbrough to Leicester, Manchester to Plymouth. Alongside our partners, we are able to achieve so much more than we ever could on our own.

Statutory partners and system leaders are crucial to our work. New Generation Policing is a prime example of this. The range of partners needed for a project of this scale and ambition is vital to its success.

The 10 individuals sitting on our New Generation Policing Advisory Board bring much-needed evidence and leadership. They include academics and senior leaders at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, National Police Chief’s Council and HM Inspectorate of Fire and Rescue Services. Their guidance and support helped us secure six pilot sites where we will be working alongside police services and Police and Crime Commissioners to drive evidence-based change in the way they work with young adults.

Alongside speaking to our lived experience members, we also partnered with Leaders Unlocked to consult young adults on the issues that affect their lives. From this consultation, we created six ‘young adult personas’ that we used to guide the discussion and solutions at our event in November. Two young adult advisors also spoke at the event and we received glowing feedback about their presentations. It was great to partner with an organisation who shared our vision and work on similar issues – they’ve recently published a youth-led study about young people’s experience of policing during lockdown.

This work has only been possible through having supportive funding partners who share our vision and goals. Working with Barrow Cadbury Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Lloyds Bank Foundation on this project has meant we have been able to adapt to the lockdown circumstances while having the full support of our funders.

Collaborating with academic partners enables us to work on large-scale research projects with national impact. We’ve been working on a research project with King’s College London and the University of Surrey, who have been open to peer research involvement from the beginning. They have involved peer researchers at all stages of the project: research material design, data collection and analysis of findings, as well as inviting them to project group meetings and actively involving them during these.

As a result, the peer researchers have had a far greater impact than we originally imagined – more involvement has led to closer collaboration with the academics, and greater input to shape the research design and analysis. They are even supporting the peers to produce an academic paper reflecting, in their own words, on the process – not something that is often done! It’s exciting to see the growth in confidence of our peer researchers through working alongside acknowledged experts in criminal justice – and equally exciting to see those experts acknowledge and be influenced by the lived expertise of our peer researchers. This degree of openness to coproduction of knowledge is a new high watermark in our academic partnerships. It has to be the way forward for Revolving Doors.

People with lived experience are crucial to our work. As a non-service delivery organisation, referral partners help us to recruit into our regional forums and other involvement and consultation work. In return, we offer their client’s strategic influencing opportunities that help to build confidence and support progression.

Liaison & Diversion in Birmingham and Solihull, the New Leaf Initiative in Nottingham, Dear Albert in Leicester, The Big Life Group in Manchester and the Peer Mentor programme at Cheshire and Greater Manchester CRC have all referred amazing and passionate people to work with us. Without them we wouldn’t be able to get our work off the ground. I’d also like to acknowledge CASSPLUS, the Devon and Cornwall-based courts advisory and support service. When tasked with reaching members beyond our usual Revolving Doors client group, CASSPLUS went above and beyond to recruit people into an importance piece of user research for HM Courts and Tribunals Service. And they did this in the very first weeks of the Covid-19 lockdown.

My toddler has a top with a mammoth on it and the caption, “small but mighty”. I think it sums up our team at Revolving Doors quite well. But we can only be truly mighty through working alongside so many other dedicated, inspiring, challenging organisations. Thanks to all of our partners over the last year. If you want to collaborate with us, get in touch: Katy Savage, Head of Partnerships.