Touchstone Operations Director Arfan Hanif reflects on the value of collaboration and how to do it well.

Increasingly everything we do at Touchstone is done in collaboration, whether between colleagues in the same office or with those who work for a number of our diverse partner organisations. If I did a quick count I could easily name over 50 partners we work with. In fact we are very good at collaborating with others. Its easy to prove and we all do it every day! And that is……putting our service users at the heart of everything we do ensuring all their needs are met either directly or in collaboration with others.
By putting the service user first we are able to consider their needs (and the needs of their families) in an holistic manner where a number of issues from Health to Welfare can be considered. The solution will often require more than one service and this is where I have seen, on a number of occasions, our staff utilising the various services offered by a number of partner agencies, ensuring our service users get a complete service package tailored to their needs.
Effective collaboration does not come easy. There are a number of factors that can make collaboration difficult. Organisations may have different sets of values/objectives, power dynamics may be at play, having to wait for others to act, lack of clear accountability can all make collaboration a real challenge. Personally, it’s all noise to me! I only collaborate so that service users get the best possible outcome and this is the key.
So what is the art of effective collaboration leading to excellence in service delivery? Here are my top tips I use when collaborating with others:
1. Always put the Service User/Client first
2. Get to know your partner’s work and objectives
3. Identify common or aligned objectives
4. Clear and engaging communication (Listening is key!)
5. Compromise where needed, in order to deliver the best possible service outcomes
6 Be clear about roles, responsibilities & accountabilities
7. Conduct yourself in line with your values.
For the service user, collaboration fundamentally means they are receiving a total service from a virtual Single Team that is unique to them. Remember very little can be achieved alone, however harnessing the collective resource of our partners can lead to bigger things.