Partnerships & CO

conversation openers
Published in Tools on 17 Jan 2018

Partnerships & CO: Conversation Openers was created to support those planning a partnership or wishing to reflect on and take stock of an existing partnership. This tool aims to provide a framework for navigating conversations that can support an effective partnership.

Partnerships and CO

It is designed to be flexible and adaptable to a variety of contexts where partnership working is the focus for discussion across the social services, health and housing sectors. Some of the topics may be more relevant to work with families and to early intervention. It's coverage is not exhaustive or prescriptive but aims to provide some conversational touch points in what can be a complex area.

This tool follows Outcomes & CO: Conversation Openers which was created to support practitioners and managers across the social services sector to reflect on their views, values and experiences of a personal outcomes approach.

What is partnership?

There is a range of pre-existing definitions and uses of the term ‘partnership’. Those involved in developing partnerships need to be the ones to define and understand what it means in their context. This tool aims to support them to do this. A definition of partnership cited by Lester et al (2008:494) offers a simple place to start:

‘any situation in which people work across organisational boundaries towards some positive end’.

Anticipated outcomes

  • Improved awareness and understanding of key concepts in developing and sustaining partnerships
  • Increased reflective practice about partnership working
  • Improved understanding of partnership working across teams and organisations
  • Increased confidence about exploring and developing partnerships


This tool comprises five themes, each with a set of related questions.

  • Drivers
  • Practicalities
  • Culture
  • Recording and measuring
  • Impact

Three simple steps to use the cards:

  1. Choose an individual question or theme
  2. Use the question(s) to encourage reflection and discussion about what this means in your context
  3. Consider how you / your organisation will action the learning from your reflections and conversations

Get the tool

In addition to the downloadable version of the Partnerships & CO tool on this page, we also have a small supply of full printed sets available. If you'd like to request a pack, please use the form available on this page and we will post your pack out.

Update: As we are currently working remotely we are unable to provide any print copies

Partnerships & CO tool


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This tool is based on the learning of the Dundee Early Intervention Team (DEIT) - a partnership since 2011 of Aberlour, Children 1st, Action for Children, Barnardo’s Scotland working together with Dundee City Council, NHS Tayside and Dundee Voluntary Action. The idea for the tool was inspired by the DEIT steering group and practitioners through a collaborative project with Iriss in 2017. They reflected that the success and effectiveness of the partnership lay in the quality of their conversations - continuous, reflective, cross-cutting, sometimes difficult - which were ultimately, a key mechanism to making a difference to families in Dundee.

Further resources from the DEIT project are available on the Iriss website.


Grateful thanks to the DEIT team practitioners, service manager and steering group who gave generously of their time to share their learning and contribute to the development of this tool.

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