10 tips for effective partnerships

Canadian government needs an overhaul of its procurement and partnering frameworks to more effectively support intergovernmental arrangements and deliver more public value, according to a new research report.

Transformational government – or the notion of cross-jurisdictional and citizen-friendly service delivery – requires a mix of partnering models, new methodologies and tools, asserts the Crossing Boundaries National Council, an Ottawa-based think tank co-chaired by Rona Ambrose, federal minister of intergovernmental affairs.

Crossing Boundaries drew up its latest report with consulting firms CGI, Accenture and EDS Canada, after a survey of over 1,200 senior officials at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, as well as a country-wide series of roundtable discussions.

The report says Canadian government, particularly the Feds, is lagging behind other Commonwealth countries and the United States in the development and use of partnering arrangements to meet citizens’ expectations and to deliver services across all three levels of government.

“Unless we formalize some of these cross-jurisdictional procedures and methodologies, we’ll be living in a very stovepiped world for much longer,” says Andy Blenkarn, one of the report’s co-authors.

Canadian governments remain siloed in their service delivery areas and are only beginning to “join up” their services and programs, the report notes.

Outside of a few leading examples — such as the BizPal licensing application and the B.C. government’s model of alternative service delivery — governments tend to employ traditional procurement processes that are not delivering timely, cost-effective results.

These procurement processes are also not enabling innovative partnering arrangements but are inhibiting them, the report asserts.

By focusing more on outcomes, the study concludes that partnering arrangements could play a more significant part in building governments’ capacity for service delivery and attracting investment and innovation.

Partnering arrangements and the evolution of change are painfully slow in Canada, adds Blenkarn, a vice-president at EDS Canada.

“The principles and frameworks are not in place here in Canada to enable strong government-to-government and government-to-industry partnering arrangements,” he says.

“When I look at the size, speed and transformational capacity of the U.K. government [as only one example], it’s because they more readily embrace partnering arrangements.

“Canada needs a new framework that is more outcomes-based, one that is led by progressive governance and a set of key policies and practices around partnering.”

Partnering agreements and charters are relatively new in Canada, according to the study, and few government organizations have adopted standardized approaches and tools to support effective partnering arrangements.

Resistance to change exists due to a gap in understanding of how to successfully build new forms of partnerships, the report continues, and to overcome the challenges of increased complexity.

“Tried and tested partnering arrangements are a less risky approach. But with measures of success that don’t necessarily demonstrate that business value has been created — only that budgets and timelines are met — there is little impetus for change.”

The success of future partnerships will need to engage both politicians and senior bureaucrats to build a common understanding of partnership value, the report says. These partnerships can also help improve productivity and expand governance across a broader spectrum of government procurement spending.

Partnerships can and should be leveraged more, the report concludes, to assist in the revitalization of infrastructure, to help reduce costs and to enhance services to Canadians.

The report outlines 10 principles for effective partnership arrangements:

o The partnering decision should be based on outcomes, results, and what will be achieved, and not simply focused on time, costs, inputs and internal assembly.

o Partnering arrangement must be focused on a shared understanding of which party is managing particular elements of risk, with clearly defined roles, responsibility and accountability.

o There must be a shared understanding of what the desired outcome is and which elements are to be provided by each party, either through a “partnership charter” or formal partnering agreement (in support of the formal contract).

o The partnering arrangement needs to be flexible, it needs to support “agility,” and it needs to be able to cope with new citizen-centric demands and changes in customer requirements and changes in legislation.

o Partnerships must be based on proven partnering models and a solid body of partnering knowledge, in order for all participants to learn from past mistakes, and to ensure that lessons learned stay learned and are passed on to others.

o Partnerships must ensure a governance model is in place that supports both parties’ goals and objectives, and has transparency around all key issues.

o Trust needs to be developed and “earned” through the right actions, behaviours and performance, recognizing that it is important to have the right people in the right positions.
o Partnership champions at the senior leadership levels of both organizations are needed and they must be effectively engaged.

o There needs to be a legitimate business reason and a sound business case prior to entering into discussions on partnering.

o The partnering decision needs to be formally made and the value of this decision commonly understood by each party.

For the full report click here

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