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Trends in Collaboration: Lessons Learned from Sectoral Involvement in Departmental Policy Development (SIDPD) and Beyond
The key SIDPD findings are presented followed by lessons learned from the projects themselves and what is emerging about the nature of collaboration.
4.1.1 Government and Sector Capacity
However, in the context of strengthening the voluntary sector's opportunities for input into departmental policy development, the reports are more mixed. While there are several interesting examples of improved opportunity to input into departmental policy development processes, limited innovation is reported to date across government.
The inability of many departments to capitalize on the projects appears to be related to multiple factors including the absence of active departmental champions and staff turnover.
Interviewees indicated that there were capacity issues for representatives of both the government and the voluntary sector.
4.1.2 Process vs. Policy: Engaging Stakeholders
This is not a negative finding however, because in fact SIDPD has built a great deal of social capital. The majority of interviewees indicated that as result of their project, sustainable relationships had been built with partners and other key stakeholders, they had developed a greatly enhanced understanding of the subject matter being addressed and all involved had a much deeper appreciation of the public policy process.
In addition, SIDPD has significantly contributed to the development of a number of VS Networks –these represent a broad range of issues and stakeholders and could be used as a vehicle for public consultation, policy development.
The emphasis on process was also linked to the fact that policy development by definition has long historical time frames. The design of SIDPD did not take this into consideration and thus many projects did not get past organizing to identify and address policy issues due to their limited time frames. Despite the limited timeframes for SIDPD early indications are that some projects are being sustained beyond SIDPD.
Project managers reported receiving funding from provincial and territorial governments and foundations as well as the federal government for follow-up activities. Several project mangers indicated the funding had come as a result of the increased profile that the funding from SIDPD provided.
Many of the projects represent a very broad range of stakeholders—interestingly many included provincial and municipal officials and some even included the private sector. This broad range of stake-holders is innovative in many instances and again represents a promising new development.
4.1.3 A New Way of Working
Many interviewees reported that SIDPD provided them for the first time with both significant resources but more importantly the credibility with departments to undertake policy development—they were not seen any longer as “just advocacy organizations”. A limited number of projects also indicated that they are beginning to experience some success with accessing senior management in government as a result of their SIDPD Project.
4.1.4 Getting the Word Out
The interviews indicate that any one dissemination strategy is a weak approach– a dissemination strategy has to be broad—it is not enough to post a report on a website for example. Interviewees indicated that face to face workshops and other opportunities are still preferred—many are searching for practical ways to communicate the learning from these projects.
4.1.5 A Values Shift?
4.2 Key Success Factors of the Projects
4.2.1 Receptivity and Timing
It was noted that projects were less successful that were trying to raise emerging policy issues or where the organizations or government representatives did not have a lot of experience on the file. This was very apparent in the significant number of project representatives that indicated they had difficulty engaging senior management or decision makers.
The design of SIDPD did not allow for developmental projects. The design assumed that public policy issues could be formulated, organized around and addressed within a one-two year time frame. This has lead to greatly raised expectations and unnecessary frustration on the part of both voluntary sector and government representatives.
4.2.2. Leadership: Passion and Commitment
Project managers also spoke about the need to understand that partners had different agendas but that what collaboration offered was a common agenda that would require continuous evolution and development. Interviewees also made it clear that there was always the potential for the various agendas to come into conflict but that the MOUs and governance structures provided means by which to deal with the conflict.
4.2.4 Effective Engagement Strategies
These engagement strategies were notable for their inclusiveness and sensitive approach to ensuring that the full range of issues and sub-issues were addressed and people associated with those issues engaged.
4.2.5 Capacity of Key Players
However it was clear from the interviews that the projects that were very collaborative also had key players that were highly skilled and that this skill level impacted all aspects of the project, key players had good understanding of the business of government and of the voluntary sector and very importantly understood the need to and could speak the other’s language That skill set also included openness to ideas and the flexibility to back up and change a course of direction if that is what was required.
4.2.6 Relationship (Trust) Building and Role Definition
They also noted and understood that not all relationships are equal. Interviewees spoke about the time required to both define the parameters of the relationship and develop the relationship required to make the project work.
4.2.7 Continuous Learning
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|Last Updated: 2013-05-19|