Partnership made painless
A joined-up guide to working together
By Ros Harrison, Geoffrey Mann, Michael Murphy, Alan Taylor and Neil Thompson

Written in partnership and based on extensive and diverse partnership work experience, this exciting new book offers clues and suggestions about how you can develop your work inside partnerships. The result is "refreshingly different and brave in trying to address a topic that is easier to avoid because it is such a generic uncharted problem..." Martin C. Calder. It "stimulates new ways of looking at partnerships and reminds us that underneath the expertise and specialisms that people bring, partnerships are about people and how they relate to one another." Ros Burnett.

The aim is to help you work in ways that:
  • are less painful than they might be - for yourself and others - if you don't take appropriate care in what can be a complex and stressful arena
  • can help you and your partners: work purposefully towards intended outcomes; define new ones along the way; achieve those as well; respond to other change, from within and without
  • do all this in a way that is authentically in partnership.

  • These are significant challenges, not least because partnership work often takes place in a context where:
  • rules are few and territory is often uncharted
  • opinions are many and change is normal
  • guidance on 'what to do' can be hard to find
  • and where the very nature of partnership work can be quite difficult to grasp and grapple with, conceptually and intellectually.
  • To help you address the challenges, Partnership made Painless encourages you - as an actual or potential partnership worker - to think of your role, at least in part, as an explorer, willing to work without the benefit of prescriptive approaches to structures and processes. In this vein, rather than describe easy, guided, routes up well-trodden paths, it tries to help you to think constructively and circumspectly about:
  • The importance of:
    • reflecting on all aspects of partnership work as well as your partnership goals - individually, within your organisation and with your partners
    • balancing issues of diversity and effectiveness
    • being aware of the opportunities and pitfalls in partnership contexts.
  • How you can:
    • keep track of and evaluate your options
    • keep track of and influence what is going on
    • manage your interpersonal and interorganisational relationships
    • look after yourself and your partners.
    Throughout, we ask whether there are specific skills of partnership, and whether we - any of us - can learn them… You be the judge…

    Large format paperback. 128 pages. 978-1-898924-88-3. Published 2003. £17.95


    Introduction: understanding partnership
    The first date: preparation, purpose and planning
    Developing a relationship: communication, commitment and consensus
    Tying the knot: roles, responsibilities and rituals
    Keeping going: conflict, crisis and caring
    Moving on: transition, transformation and termination
    In praise of partnership
    Guide to further study


    Ros Harrison
    is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the North East Wales Institute of Higher Education. She has been a teacher, counsellor and consultant working with public and private sector organisations for 20 years. Ros worked with the Wales Youth Agency to negotiate a coherent training route for part-time youth workers. This is delivered in partnership between NEWI and twenty-one of the twenty-two Welsh authorities. The purpose of this initiative is to improve the quality of youth service delivery in Wales. As a curriculum framework it also increases access to Higher Education and has created a career path for participants, enabling them to gain HE credits toward professional qualification.

    Geoffrey Mann is Managing Director of Russell House Publishing (RHP) and a trustee of the registered charity: Lyme Regis Development Trust. This is his first book: a goal in writing it has been to learn how RHP can maintain and build on its partnerships with authors. In his voluntary work he leads the Trust's work with young people, where his proudest achievement to date has been bringing together, establishing and funding the Lyme Regis Youth Forum. They are now partners with the Trust, the youth service, the health service, the drug and alcohol advisory service and the education-business partnership in setting up a youth café in Lyme, where we hope the careers, Connexions and employment services will also soon join us. In addition he has helped the Trust's work in setting up LymeNET, an IT-based community learning centre, as part of a cross-Dorset SRB-funded multi-agency partnership led by Dorset TEC and Dorset Community Action.

    Michael Murphy has been working as a resource co-ordinator for a large child care partnership for the last eleven years. He is a member of PIAT (promotion of interagency training), author of Working together in child protection (Ashgate, 1995) and co-editor of Substance misuse and child care (RHP, 2001). As a parent of a large family he feels that he does a lot of partnership work at home!

    Alan Taylor has been a youth worker, teacher, trainer and a senior manager in a national voluntary organisation. He is currently on secondment to assist the work of a government led forum concerned with promoting partnership work on the resettlement of offenders. He is also a member of the Employment Service's National Partnership Group for New Deal, the Government's programme for the unemployed. Alan has a great deal of experience of developing and evaluating partnerships at national and local level on matters to do with offender resettlement, employment, training and education. He is also the Chair of Russell House Publishing.

    Professor Neil Thompson teaches in the school of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work Studies at the University of Liverpool. He is also a Director of Avenue Consulting Ltd, a company offering training and consultancy in relation to personal, professional and organisational development ( He has written extensively on social work, social welfare and related matters, and his latest book is Understanding social work: preparing for practice (Palgrave, 2000). Neil is a qualified mediator and has a strong commitment to effective partnership working, conflict management and alternative dispute resolution.


    "How refreshing to read a book that goes beyond the rhetoric and addresses some of the problems which can accompany it. It recognises that partnerships take time, energy and resources to sustain, can be a vehicle for lowest common denominator compromises that avoid difficult decisions, can conceal continuing competitiveness and defensiveness, and can be dominated by the culture of the largest agency. This collaborative work is based on very diverse experiences. It practices what it preaches in using the diversity as a strength with case studies from different contexts. It recognises too, the importance of ritual in celebrating the engagement of the partnership, and of appropriate endings… this book will be of practical help. Best of all it will help partners to work out what they want to achieve from a partnership and how best to overcome obstacles. More can be achieved by working together than by working alone." Community Care.

    "A timely book…despite the ubiquity of notions of partnership in "new" Labour social policy, until now there has been no book that sought to give practitioners or managers explicit guidance in how to make partnerships work. This volume seeks to fill that gap in the market. In general, it does so admirably… an accessible 'how-to-do-it' approach which most practitioners and managers will find more useful than those books that occupy more highly academic territory… the practical experience of the authors in establishing and nurturing partnerships does give the book the feel of lived reality… As befits the main purpose of the books - to give practical guidance to those involved in, or considering being involved in, partnership working - the written style is clear and succinct… It reminds the reader that partnerships are no abstract entities; they are formed and maintained by the efforts of people… The basic purpose of the book is to provide some illumination about the processes to be considered when establishing partnerships. It succeeds commendably in that mission." Vista.

    "It does look a really useful piece of work. I like the way it deconstructs the concept and spells out clearly the mechanics for putting it into effect. I only hope that staff in Social Work and course tutors can respond to the challenge because it deserves to be right at the centre of the new graduate curriculum in order to make real the rhetoric of social inclusion and social justice." Steven Walker .

    "The authors… focus on the central role that relationships play in partnerships….They provide a rich array of thinking and tools to explore and develop the relationships between partners. They offer a helpful process for exploring development and change within a partnership, including bringing it to an end… This book will help those looking to explore and develop the relationships upon which partnerships are built." Young People Now.

    "This wide-ranging guide is aimed at those who are thinking about becoming involved in partnership work, and those already involved in partnership working in some way… takes a non-specific organisational look at how to make partnerships bearable and workable, and its approach is perfectly useable in the social care field… offers a large amount of straightforward, obviously well-grounded, advice, and it includes many practical examples. This material is well-presented, and can be used as a reader for individual study, or as a source by trainers." Care & Health.

    "Forthright about the fact that it may, at times, be more difficult to work in partnership than to continue in splendid isolation, but it also remains unequivocal in its belief that partnership working ultimately results in better outcomes for both clients and staff. By using examples from a wide range of work situations the book succeeds in drawing out those themes - and identifying those skills - which are common to all partnership work." ACT Bulletin.