Over the lifetime of the IISaM project, we were lucky enough to work with a range of academics from different backgrounds. In Bradford, Sue Richardson brought her perspectives on the differing systemic influences on information sharing behaviour (such as professional identity, and regulatory regime). She shaped that into a series of multi-agency workshops which gave participants the chance to explore differing attitudes to sharing. In Greater Manchester, the team of academics behind the Framework for Multi Agency Environments (FAME) worked with a local partnership to help them explore practical steps in their service design work. And in Leicestershire, the local partnership built on their longstanding association with Mark Hepworth from Loughborough, who led the process to develop a capacity-building e-learning module on sharing information.
As we move towards the launch of the Centre of Excellence, we are taking those relationships forward, developing new ones, and working out how to establish the most effective governance in the longer term. So today, we are up in Newcastle with those participants, and others, to develop an ‘Academic Advisory Panel’. Shaped by the team and our academic colleagues, we envisage that it will sit alongside the Centre’s governance routes, providing input, insight and independence throughout.
We’ve already benefited as individuals from the reflection and context that working with academics provides, so as the Centre grows its team, we are putting some structure around that for new staff. The evidence we gather from local places can be used to inform their work, and local places could also benefit from new perspectives and emergent academic thinking on information sharing issues. The expertise and long term perspective of academics will also be useful to the Steering Group, as they give strategic direction to the Centre’s work.
This way of working is not one that is replicated in many other places, so, like much else in the Centre, we are shaping something new. But it shows how many parties are interested in working on information sharing issues. A collaborative approach, across central and local government, bringing together policy development, local evidence and academic thinking? The possibilities are enormous!