The Shekinah Group comprising of six agencies had a shared purpose to enhance social housing and alleviate homelessness. The agencies shared a range of policies and practices and met regularly to share information and provide support to each other. To further enhance standards across the Network they agreed to undertake a joint accreditation process.
A steering committee was established to coordinate the project and to manage the balance between agency autonomy and collaborative resource-sharing. Preparing for accreditation pushed agencies to explore the question ‘how can we do this better?’ This was at times a challenge for staff and management. Our role as consultants was to facilitate this process, supporting and encouraging the agencies to work through key issues. The documentation underpinned the process providing a focus for debate.
As an independent consultant it was a fascinating process to explore the development of joint policies and procedures across six independent, albeit aligned agencies, who were simultaneously considering options for amalgamation. Successful accreditation for all six agencies plus the overall Network stood out as a great outcome. The project demonstrated the important role an independent facilitator can play in driving collaborative processes between agencies. The tension which came out at times between the needs of the individual organisations and the overall ‘demands’ of the Network required careful negotiation and tactful discussions. A process that was further complicated by the separate discussions regarding possible mergers that were taking place between several of the agencies. This required the consultants to ‘hold the tension in balance’, not to necessarily push for an instant solution, but to gently encourage further discussions and debate. This approach brought about significant insights for the agencies and clarity about future roles and relationships.