OPINION: Take the lead role in forming partnerships

GERALDINE PEACOCK, chief executive of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

At Guide Dogs we have managed to form partnerships with a number of local authorities to extend the range of services available to blind and partially sighted people. We offered to fund mobility services on the condition that the local authorities formally agreed to allocate what they would have spent on mobility into other rehabilitation services for visually impaired people. This achieved two things: increased services and, in some cases, additional local authority investment of up to 40 per cent. And we are now looking at what incentives we can offer to attract the private sector into investing in visual impairment services.

Crossing sector boundaries in this way and forging alliances with a range of very different organisations has always been a natural part of the voluntary sector's role. Unfortunately, the third sector can sometimes forget that it has a lot to offer in steering this agenda, that we are uniquely placed to be the honest broker for new ways of working.

At the heart of it lies our interaction with government through service provision and the grants process - with the private sector, often through corporate fundraising, and with voluntary organisations through jointly working towards common aims.

But we must be clear that we are not just providers of government services, the recipients of corporate philanthropy or unthinkingly co-operative.

We have real potential to make things happen differently by thinking laterally about what we do.

Recently, Guide Dogs worked alongside consultants the Compass Partnership to produce an in-house video on the management of change. We recognised the potential of getting others in the voluntary sector to share their good management and governance practices, and so approached several large charities to form a consortium to produce training videos. Now with £90k between us, we used our networks to bring in match-funding from the private sector, and hopefully government support.

We understand the issues, have the experience to broker new and creative approaches to the use of resources, and we are able to set the wheel turning.

These attributes not only strengthen our power and credibility as a sector but, more importantly, they boost our ability to support our beneficiaries.

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