Speak to any community program coordinator – aged care, youth groups, neighbourhood houses, arts groups etc – about funding and efficient management of their organisation and shoulders shrug. Isn’t there a better way? The idea of place-based aggregation of public funds has been around for some years but that is all it is – a logical thought process for efficient, long term management.
Many groups are funded through multiple grant processes, each with their own compliance requirements. There is confusion and duplication and there can be little long term planning or employment. Volunteers spend huge amounts of time ‘seeking, applying and complying’ rather than helping deliver the result for which funding is provided.
Why shouldn’t the fashionable concept of public-private partnerships stretch to local government managing aggregated funds according to agreed guidelines from state and commonwealth governments and priorities from ratepayers who are also taxpayers? Working in partnership does not threaten democratic structures.
The following words still seem to apply today, ten years on.
“Working in partnership… endeavours to shake up the status quo which in the past has centred around top down policies, individualistic thought, fragmented structures, isolated projects and agencies and departments working independently of each other. This approach had done no one any favours….Government departments have an obligation to communicate in order to deliver the most effective services to the people they represent and communication and cooperation is the only way barriers are going to fall. Working in partnership at a local level….ensures that local developments are both effective and sustainable in the long term…
Partnership is also a crucial basis for learning, policy learning, economic learning and learning to trust…..The sources of competitive advantage are no longer access to raw materials, markets or even to new technology. Real competitive advantage comes from the ability to learn and innovate, to interact fruitfully and to share trusting relationships between suppliers and consumers, between rivals and sectors. (Dermot McCarthy, Assistant Secretary to the Department of An Taoiseach, Ireland, 1995).”