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research report

Supporting collaboration and partnerships in a changing context

A study for the BIG Lottery Fund 2011

May 2011

Leila Baker, Ben Cairns


This research, commissioned by Big Lottery Fund (BIG), looked at collaboration and partnership working in a changing context. The study was carried out by IVAR between January and March 2011.


The aim of this study was to explore how the BIG could support its voluntary and community sector (VCS) applicants and grant holders to ‘collaborate more effectively’ and so ‘deliver their agreed project outcomes more successfully in a changing environment.’


Our inquiry was guided by the following questions:


  • What is already known about the drivers, challenges and benefits of VCS collaboration and partnership?
  • Have the drivers, challenges and benefits of VCS collaboration altered since the recent wider changes that we have seen in the VCS operating environment?
  • Which of these changes are relevant to BIG’s grant making? What are the implications of these changes for BIG’s practice?


The report outlines findings from more than 30 semi-structured interviews and 90 survey responses. Key findings include:


  • VCS organisations face growing pressure to collaborate but the time and resources (including support) that would help them to make good decisions about collaborative working arrangements are being reduced.
  • Merger and consortium formation are perceived negatively by many participants for being, respectively, “forced” on organisations and for requiring high investment for uncertain return. Group structures and sharing back office functions are perceived as more compatible with VCS mission and values and, therefore, more likely to be internally driven.
  • Opportunities for learning between international aid and domestic VCS organisations are currently under-exploited.
  • BIG (and other funders) can address some of the issues raised by enabling organisations to think first about what they want to achieve through collaborating before deciding what form collaborative working arrangements should take.


(Supporting collaboration and partnerships in a changing context 2011)

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