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Innovation in cross-agency partnership

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During these difficult times, it is important that local authorities adopt innovative solutions to the challenges facing us.

The Sheffield City Region Leadership Programme (SCRLP) is a postgraduate certificate with innovation at its heart - innovative delivery, innovative design in partnership between organisations, innovative objectives in developing a self-sustaining ‘academy’ of leaders for the region, innovation as a key outcome, and innovative in terms of the mix of participants.

The formal programme starts with an Innovation module, in which participants experience and practise using the most up to date creative and well researched techniques. Groups of between four and seven participants, deliberately mixed across agencies and sectors, work to produce (as part of their formal assessment) a written project addressing a self-selected real work problem. Examples of the 20-plus projects this year include:

  • Delivery the city community cohesion strategy more effectively. Although the city region is strong on cohesion and was one of the very few cities not to experience civil disturbance in the summer, we still need to work preventively. The project resulted in significant changes to the CC Strategy, moving from a relatively piecemeal summary of existing actions to a strategic, action-based approach to change.
  • Centralisation of CRB function for the Council/Fire/Police services. The current approach involves each organisation carrying out independent checks, with consequent inefficiencies in cost, time and customer service. The planned cross-agency integrated service is projected to save c£150K annually.
  • Improving occupancy ratio in social housing. The application of innovation techniques led to a project to encourage older people to move from larger to smaller accommodation, thereby freeing accommodation for families and leading to significant benefits in terms of customer service and projected net savings of around £100K annually.
  • South Yorkshire Network of Coaches (SYNC). A forward-looking project, completely in line with the Programme’s hopes for the Sheffield Academy, SYNC aims to allow the current cohort of participants to make their course expertise and contacts available to others within the agencies using an innovative web-site design and employing coaching concepts developed during the Programme.

In addition to these practical outcomes, participants on the programme have been very enthusiastic about the benefits of their involvement. These are some of the things they have tolsd us:

‘The wonderful opportunity to work with colleagues from other agencies has allowed us all time to really develop multi agency initiatives and ideas, and even more importantly to build lasting connections across our services.’

‘I found the opportunity to learn from colleagues working in front-line services and from different public sector organisations invaluable, as was the chance to get ‘out of the Town Hall’ and have the time and space to develop new ways of approaching work-based challenges.’

‘The opportunity to work with regional partners in the public and private sectors to develop valid, high value local projects, has been invaluable.’

The success of this programme has been the emphasis on partnership between organisations, and between people, and on trust - that participants, given the tools, can design innovative solutions to important problems.

Its innovative nature has been recognised by the European Foundation for Management Development, the premier European management body, as ‘highly commended’ in its ‘Excellence in Practice’ awards 2011.

  • Contact John Cullen on 0114 222 3429 for further information.

Lee Adams is deputy chief executive, Sheffield City Council

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