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April 8, 2022


6 months


This course includes:

6 months

Badge on Completion

Certificate of completion

6 months


In this course, Partnerships and networks in work with young people, will explore a range of meanings for the word 'partnership' and see that it is used to describe a range of practices, structures, and processes.


Partnerships and networks can emerge at a number of levels. For example, the initial contact which leads to partnership might come from young people themselves talking about their needs and interests and feeding these back to workers. It might also come from conversations between workers at inter-agency training sessions or conferences, where shared interests are identified and an exchange of ideas and information can enrich the practice of both. This in itself would be a positive outcome of networking, but if taken further it might lead to a more formal partnership between organizations. So working in partnership can be small-scale, local and temporary, and it can also involve formal arrangements between one or more organizations working together across regional boundaries over a period of time. The term 'partnership' is used to describe a wide range of organizational arrangements and ways of working: from informal networking between individuals to more formal partnership structures. You will probably be aware from your own experience of practice, as well as from your reading, that there is a significant emphasis on partnership working in current debates and discussions about practice in work with young people. As Howard Sercombe comments:
Internationally, there has been increasing pressure for different professions to work together. This [is] a good thing: young people deserve to have the best expertise available when they need it, and youth workers need to be well connected and skilled at making the right referral and in working together on issues with other professionals … Partnership and collaboration has developed as a core practice criterion in youth policy over the last decade … It isn’t just in youth work either: collaboration is also in fashion internationally, with schools, universities, government departments and even private businesses needing to demonstrate that they are working with other people.
(Sercombe, 2010, p. 81)
The LEAP framework for project planning also emphasizes the importance of partnership as one of its five principles for project working (The Scottish Government, 2007). In this course, you will be examining the range of issues that partnership working presents for practitioners working with young people. You will also be considering ways in which you can approach developing partnerships in your own practice, particularly in the context of your project. We begin by examining the term ‘partnership working’ and other terminology that is used to describe the ways in which different organizations and practitioners from different agencies work together. We then move on to consider the different levels at which partnership working might operate and the policy context in which partnership working has developed. We invite you to think about the benefits – as well as the potential challenges and dilemmas – that working in partnership can bring. You will be building on your previous learning about the nature of leadership and of organizations as you explore the issues that arise when people from different organizations – with their different structures and cultures – try to work together. Finally, we look at ways in which you can develop your own professional practice in these areas of work and ‘make partnerships work’, including as you begin to undertake your project. Partnership working takes effort. It is complex and demanding and can be slow and frustrating. However, it also has the potential to be a positive and exciting area of professional practice, challenging the way you think and allowing you to learn from being exposed to different ways of working and different professional perspectives. Michael Bracey, for example, reflects on how partnership working has given him opportunities to be part of creating real change for young people and provided him with some of the most significant developmental opportunities in his career as a youth worker:
Partnerships can provide a way through bureaucracy to a place where people can really be visionary. They can provide a laboratory for new ideas, a place where risk taking is acceptable and where alternative ways of working can be explored.
(Bracey, 2007, p. 31)
Bracey is writing from a particular perspective, as someone who has a senior role in a local authority service. Your own view of partnerships on the ground may be less rosy, and you might be much more skeptical. Nevertheless, we hope that studying this course encourages you to find opportunities to be creative in partnerships, to make them fit with the way you work and, above all, to continue to focus on ways in which outcomes and opportunities for young people can be improved as a result of the work that you do in partnership with others. You will also look at some of the difficulties, as well as the potential benefits, that can come from working in partnership.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:
  • Describe and discuss the principles of partnership working
  • Review the context and policy background that informs partnership working, particularly as it relates to practice with young people
  • Identify some of the benefits that can arise from partnership working, as well as the challenges it may present for practitioners
  • Identify ways of developing partnership working practice.

Course Curriculum

    • What do we mean by ‘working in partnership’? 00:05:00
    • Definitions and metaphors 00:30:00
    • Terminology 00:20:00
    • Dimensions of partnership working 00:30:00
    • Levels of partnership 01:00:00
    • Why work in partnership? 00:20:00
    • Context and background to partnership working 00:20:00
    • Partnership and safeguarding 00:20:00
    • Partnership and policy drivers since 2010 00:40:00
    • The benefits of working in partnership 01:00:00
    • The challenges of partnership working 00:20:00
    • Difficulties in partnership working 00:50:00
    • Conflicts and differences in power 01:00:00
    • How can we make partnerships work? 00:15:00
    • Partnerships in context 00:20:00
    • Co-working agreements 00:20:00
    • Partnership working skills 01:00:00
    • Partnership working and your own practice 00:45:00
    • Conclusion 00:05:00

About the instructor

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Open University UK