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Collaboration, partnership and innovation

Throughout my Presidential year, most of my best work has been done in the reception area of the Department for Education (DfE). Occasionally this area is crowded with aspiring heads of Academies and Multi Academy Trusts – in which case I head a few doors along to the wonderful Abbey Community Centre for coffee or lunch. Both spaces serve the same purpose, in that pretty much everyone I need to talk to will be found in one of these two key places.

I’ve noticed that conversations in both places have allowed for many collaborative and innovative ideas to emerge – it has made me ponder as to how we can create the opportunity for even more collaboration and innovation in children’s services. We talk about our staff being at their best when they have space to reflect, think and learn and this is no different for directors of children’s services. We too need to allow ourselves more space for visioning and shaping and the inevitable knitting that follows. I have discovered that the knitting together of thoughts, ideas and innovations is a key attribute for the President of ADCS.

I have mentioned many times recently that our future will be defined by collaboration and partnership, binary positions, divisive posturing and conflict is out and collaboration is in. Two examples of how collaboration and innovation work spring to mind.

The first is an event I attended this week. A group of collaborators have produced new guidance for viability assessments for kinship carers. Lawyers, social workers, judiciary and others came together to produce the guidance which can be found here, apparently harsh words were spoken in the production of this guidance but the power of collaboration and partnership meant that the finished guidance is exceptionally strong. It is endorsed by ADCS (and many others) and is more powerful than guidance produced nationally because the collaboration has led to greater ownership by the sector.

The second event will take place next week when ADCS colleagues will be having a key discussion at our annual policy seminar with other sector leaders and the DfE about sector-led improvement and challenge, of course we are best placed to collaborate together and ADCS will be showing its usual generosity of knowledge and skills in thinking about how we can support all authorities to become good or better. The collaboration in our regional ADCS groups is powerful and will define sector-led improvement over the coming years.

Which brings me to innovation, in my experience much discussed and rarely practised, there are too many initiatives masquerading as innovation and we need to get serious about what is really innovation and what will transform children’s services. ADCS has tried to be supportive of the ‘freedom to innovate’ clause in the Children and Social Work Bill, we believe that all local authorities should benefit from such freedoms, particularly those who have been judged by Ofsted to be inadequate for they are just as in need of innovation as those requiring improvement, good or outstanding. Recently ADCS has been quoted as being in support of the ‘freedom to innovate’ clause, just to clarify we support the principle, but not at any cost. In our view, it is critical that any potential freedoms and innovations are available to all and that there is clear evaluation as to their effectiveness. We await with interest the final outcome of the Bill as it completes its passage through parliament.

So, the power of collaboration, partnership and innovation will define our future, our children and young people will also help us in leading a less binary and divisive future.

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