Why we collaborate
Our methods of working include a great deal of partnerships and collaboration. Because we work over fairly long time horizons on structural change, we aim to build bodies of work and networks of change-makers rather than portfolios of very varied and unconnected work. For this way of working many hands are needed rather than few. We know we can achieve very little by ourselves and would be foolish to try. Therefore we build alliances and collaborations of various types with others who want to achieve the same ends as we do.
But collaboration is not always suitable
It is important to note that this is not a better or worse way of working than ‘letting a thousand flowers bloom’ as many other trusts and foundations do. Many of our colleagues in other trusts work tirelessly to find, support and strengthen a wide variety of organisations to do work which is only loosely thematically connected. That’s a fine thing to do; it’s just not what we do.
Good collaboration is very labour intensive and therefore expensive. It is important therefore to engage with it very purposefully and only when you can commit the time, resource and perseverance over time to justify the additional cost. Sometimes it really is just better to hand over the funds and stand away! It all depends what you are aiming to achieve.
Our main collaborations
For us, though, working closely with others and acting often as ‘connective tissue’ between our partners is a key part of what we do. This takes a variety of forms, depending on the nature of the work in hand.
Our Criminal Justice programme revolves around an alliance of key sector players in the criminal justice space. The Transition to Adulthood Alliance (T2A) is a 10-year old campaign to transform the treatment of young adults (i.e. post 18-year-olds) throughout the criminal justice system. It is an alliance of 12 organisations and Barrow Cadbury Trust provides the secretariat and much of the funding. Agenda is another alliance we have a hand in driving. It is a broad based alliance which advocates for an earlier and better approach to girls and young women at risk.
Our Migration Programme, on the other hand, involves working closely in an alliance of funders who specialise in this area. Migration Exchange is a forum for shared understanding and learning, as well as a means to align our funding to initiate new organisations and ensure all our work is complementary, rather than pulling in different directions.
Our Economic Justice programme works on a rather broader canvas and so collaborations on that programme tend to be thematic clusters of work and our role is to be a convenor and honest broker of those who could learn more from each other and from the work we fund.
We are also in several ‘pooled funds’ – protecting human rights legislation, helping local communities with refugee integration work and also a pan-European Fund for cross border work.
There are a variety of other ways in which we add value to our work and learning through collaborating. Sometimes this is with infrastructure bodies (NCVO, NAVCA, equalities, npc) sometimes with international funders (European Foundation Centre, Ariadne, Mama Cash).
And a note on power
Partnership with individual organisations requires a ‘two-way street’ and for us that means acknowledging the asymmetry of us being the budget holders. We work hard to minimise the impact of that by always including our partners’ views and perspectives when we thrash out strategy and by pulling our weight respectfully when there’s work to be done. Which is always!