Learning the Lessons - Alignment

Sustainability | Strategic Approach | Participation | Partnership | Alignment | Capacity Building | Affordability | Transferability

‘Communities and agencies getting in tune with one another's visions, aims, plans and budgets’

The logical extension of partnership is the process of drawing together or ‘aligning’ the ways in which the different partners deliver their own activities, policies and supports, in relation to the work in hand. Dùthchas called this ‘strategy alignment’ and made it one of the core principles of the Project. Having said this, we knew very little about how to make it work and could find little evidence of successful examples elsewhere. This then was another key element of the demonstration.

The Dùthchas Partners were aware of this aim of the work and signed up to it at the start of the Project. This enabled us to work with them to seek out ways of tackling this difficult area. Early in the Project we ran a workshop with all Partners to explore this question. This began to reveal the potential advantages to be gained from an alignment process in terms of lateral thinking about Partner’s remits. It also cautioned about the constraints within different organisations.

The process used by Dùthchas involved initial training and exploration of the issues for the Partners, several written consultations at different stages of the Project and two workshops. A framework was developed for managing the alignment process. This referred partners to the ways in which they could support (or otherwise) the Strategy recommendations through their:

  • direction of resources
  • regulatory role
  • focus of initiatives
  • policy positions
  • position now/ medium/ long term

The information gained from Partners was incorporated into the Initial review, the Sustainability Profiles and the Area Strategies. Partners also responded directly and variously to project opportunities as they arose.

It rapidly became clear that the overall context within which we were working presented fundamental problems to achieving our aims. There was significant confusion in the communities and agencies about multiple and over-lapping initiatives coming from the various arms of Government. It also became clear that there was a lack of an effective framework for co-ordinating partnership and alignment at a higher level. Dùthchas was powerless to address either of these problems but had to find ways of working with them.

Upon reflection, strategy alignment was one of the least successful outcomes of the Project. There were many reasons for this, most of which were beyond our control. However, we did learn some lessons which are documented more fully in the Final Report. (button to). In brief, these related to the need for:

  • Good preparation and early warning of the alignment process
  • Clear internal systems and communication channels in each agency for linking actions on project outputs
  • Topic based links between agencies and mechanisms to bring appropriate people from different bodies together around each issue
  • Assessing each Partner at the outset, to determine the key parameters of the agencies’ policies and operations
  • Recognition of the time constraints on Partners in designing an alignment process
  • Quick wins to demonstrate the benefits of alignment, bringing all Partners together to produce a rapid, integrated response
  • Recognition of the problems posed by the matching funding requirements of public sector grants and the effect on the overall grant from a mixed funding package
  • Caution about dealing with issues in isolation – joined-up thinking needed

Sustainability | Strategic Approach | Participation | Partnership | Alignment | Capacity Building | Affordability | Transferability