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United we stand, divided we fall

Feb 06, 2012 - Comments: 0

What can make a collaboration work? Collaboration is a word that has been bandied around, sometimes with a great amount of passion, for several years. It is something that has been encouraged by funders and, more recently, almost forced on some organisations by the cuts and the difficult economic climate. But what can make or break a collaboration?

Pulling together a group of people with a whole array of skills, backgrounds and passions is not easy, especially if they are all leaders!

I believe that practical things such as the mission, structures, incentives, ideas, specialism, technology etc are crucial ingredients in the mix. But without one key ingredient the collaboration is unlikely to succeed. That ingredient is trust.

However, the trust has to begin within each individual organisation.

A good leader will ensure that there is transparency. By being open with your own staff and clearly explaining ‘the plan’, you will gain trust and support.

A good leader will understand the implications for all employees. This does mean all. Not just the people that you work closely with but even those that you occasionally pass in the corridor or don’t have much contact with because they are part-time or because they sit too far away. There will be a lot of fears and anxieties, which if not dealt with could be costly. The trust dynamic has also changed as more and more contracts are short term rather than permanent leaving less time to build trustworthy relationships.

Large institutions have faced meltdowns because there have been far too many unknowns, ad-hoc forecasting and development of internal ‘groups’. Trust is multi-dimensional and once broken is hard to repair.

Now and then good sense breaks out and allows trust and collaboration to begin. Trust (like distrust) is contagious. It is carried socially and can flourish when enough people in a given population show willing.

It is only when the trust is visible within individual organisations that any collaboration can stand a chance to flourish or indeed even survive. Get the trust in there, then the listening, engaging, sharing and delivering will happen much more effortlessly.

Trust is essential and valuable, but for too many organisations and for too many leaders not nearly enough effort is displayed.

CJS Blog on Children and Young People in Custody (2010- 2011)

Oct 27, 2011 - Comments: 0

BTEG CJS Blog- on Children and Young People in Custody (2010-11) 

Half term, and the one day I am in the office will be a busy one.

Yesterday, sitting in the hairdressers in Wood Green with the kids, I read the Guardian headline that '40%' of Youth Jail population were black. This was the headline grabber from the Chief Inspectors of Prisons report into the state of our youth offending institutions. I haven't read the report yet, so cannot comment on the detail but it confirms two things that I have felt in my water doing this job over the past 3 months: firstly, race is a huge issue in the CJS; and secondly, the CJS is in denial as to what a huge factor it is in changing the system for the better.

Some useful links;

Young black men make up four in 10 of youth jail population

Children and Young People in Custody (2010- 2011)

Creating the right environment, to make the right decisions, at the right time

Oct 18, 2011 - Comments: 0

As individuals we are making decisions all the time so it should be second nature right?

If only it was that simple for organisations. Many of us have had to make some really tough decisions over that past year – redundancies, mergers, cuts, etc and I am sure that some of the decisions made under pressure and quite often without all the relevant data or input. Some of these decisions become a bit of a gamble or risk. So what can we do to rationalise the process. Rather than list the do’s and don’ts of decision making and problem solving (lots of material out there, I thought it would be useful to reflect on a conversation I had with a colleague last week (Huda Amin, Women into Business) during one of our Action Learning sessions.

Decision making draws on various professions, including psychology,  sociology, anthropology,  political  science and economics and can affect behaviours at and individual, group or organisational level. It also is in my mind very much to do with having the right internal structure and communication.

Getting the right people involved in the decision – this is essential to ensure that all perspectives are included, to allow internal expertise to be utilised and to speed up the decision making process. It is sometimes advisable to set up steering committees (time limited of course) to allow external experts to be pulled in – time to draw on those favours.

Using decision making tools – There are lots of simple and effective decision making tools that should be used in teams or groups. These not only help look at the decision from various angles but also help individuals think out side the box. A couple of my favourites are Force Field Analysis and the 6 Thinking Hats.

Structure is also related to communication. Who and how do you communicate to? Is there an existing hierarchy or protocol? Does it work? Quite often internal tensions and doubts begin to emerge when people feel that decisions are been made without their knowledge. The key word here is knowledge. It is not always the case that everyone wants to be involved at every stage but just want the courtesy of been informed of what the issue is, why it has arisen and how they intend to deal with it.

Yes, decisions sometimes need to be made quickly and not every ‘leader’ has the luxury to consult to the level they would like to – fair enough  - this is sometimes the reality – However, what  often fails to happen is the essential communication before AND after the decision. Get this right and your decision making will be somewhat easier.

Tebussum Rashid

Shadow Justice Secretary puts the case for the opposition

Oct 18, 2011 - Comments: 0
But race still doesn’t seem recognised as a key issue

Sadiq Khan Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary gave the Howard League’s annual Parmore lecture in Canary Wharf last night.

As a working class kid from a South London housing estate, with 12 years experience as a councillor and having had an impressive legal career outside politics before coming into the Commons, Khan isn't one of those new breed of politicians who the accusation of lacking real life experience can be thrown at. He is clearly a product of his family and proud of his roots.

The speech was thin on policy specifics, which was not surprising as we are 3 1/2 years from the next election, but full of a detailed demolition of Ken Clarke and the Coalitions agenda at MOJ. He also gave a resound defence of Labour’s record in office on CJS policy. I would take issue on some of Khan's defences of the Labour Government’s record. He spoke of the need to balance punishment and reform in taking forward a progressive justice policy and informing public opinion. Too often in my view the last government seemed to be led by public opinion.

Khan said nothing in his speech on the major race equality challenges facing the CJS which was disappointing as it falls into the all too familiar establishment orthodoxy of not viewing race equality as a central issue for the CJS when the stats and informed people on the ground (for example in the two prisons I have recently visited with BAME populations in excess of 60%) clearly state the opposite. Unfortunately, I didn't get an opportunity to ask a question on race equality so we didn’t get a chance to hear his position, but BTEG will send in a short submission to Labour’s Justice  policy review. Too often attending events like this even in the context of a British Asian front bench spokesperson I am left feeling that race really isn’t embraced as part of the debate and a huge part of the answers moving forward.

However, I found his approach of both challenging and giving accolades to reformers, providing at least the opportunity to have a grown up debate. What we have to try and ensure is that race equality is fully part of that debate and as always this will be a struggle, but I am sure we can make a valuable contribution through the network.

Mark Blake

BTEG holds first of five consultation events on establishing it's BAME network

Oct 05, 2011 - Comments: 0
Over 25 people attended our first consultation event yesterday at the offices of Foundation 4 Life in Croydon. The feedback from the events will help to inform the development

BTEG holds first of five consultation events on establishing it's BAME network

Over 25 people attended our first consultation event yesterday at the offices of Foundation 4 Life in Croydon. The feedback from the events will help to inform the development of the network over the next two years. Of course the current environment for all voluntary sector organisations is difficult but there was sense of optimism that the challenges facing BAME communities in the area of the justice system could be addressed with greater engagement within communities and government showing greater commitment to address these problems.

A final report from the consultations will be available in December.

Mark Blake


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