Why collaboration is necessary and learning to work across boundaries should be compulsory

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Professor John Diamond (Director of the University’s I4P) makes the case for working across boundaries:

Edge Hill’s Festival of Ideas brings together a number of shared themes and ideas. One of them – working across the different professional or discipline boundaries that can inhibit good practice, is reflected in a number of talks and workshops.

On the face of it, the invitation to work collaboratively can appear like talking common sense. Who can possibly be opposed to it?

In her new book, Gillian Tett talks about the ‘silo effect’ and the ways in which organisations can become ineffective and slow to innovate because of the ways in which boundaries between different bits of organisations or universities restrict developments or change. The question or questions are therefore about how to balance the skills and understanding that separate disciplines bring with the need to think about how their potential to limit change needs to be kept under scrutiny.

This raises important questions too about how we organise or structure organisations: do we reflect the needs of professional disciplines (in a university that would be departments), or do we also try to reflect the needs of users (students and external partners or potential collaborators)? If we privilege the needs of professional disciplines (the producers) does that reduce or restrict our potential to change or innovate? How do we organise and structure what we do so that it has that room for manoeuvre? And are all structures ultimately means of holding back innovation? Why does this matter?

Learning from and with both service users and producers, and being open to change, are new relationships based upon innovation more likely to sustain lasting change? And they suggest (but don’t ensure) that we are creating a cultural bias in favour of innovation which is a necessary but not sufficient condition of our times.

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John Diamond

John Diamond

Professor John Diamond has made significant contributions to the UK Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) through his research on the management of change within major urban regeneration programmes.

John’s work is renowned both regionally and nationally, in addition to his written work he has participated in a number of conferences, invitation-only events and has acted as an external advisor across the Voluntary sector. Through his research John has enabled leaders in the Voluntary and Community Sector to make sense of the changing relationship the VCS has with the public sector.

Professor John Diamond is the National Chair of the Association for Research with the Voluntary and Community Sector (ARVAC) and co-editor of the annual series Critical Perspectives on International Public Sector Management .

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