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Strictly Come Partnership

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Higher Education, Innovation, Investment, Productivity, Skills and training, Universities

TV Presenter Laura Whitmore is the latest celebrity to be announced as a contestant in the next series of Strictly Come Dancing. She will be thrown together with an unknown professional and take on tangoing and waltzing to the delight (or dismay) of millions on primetime TV. Bonds will quickly be formed or the dancing duo will fall flat. It’s a make or break partnership and there’s no time to lose.

All partnerships must start somewhere, but new research from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) shows that multiple local ‘anchor institutions’ can come together and support local small businesses to develop their leadership skills, but it really helps if they are already used to working together.

The findings come from a series of projects testing how local ‘anchor institutions’ can use their expertise and influence to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills in small businesses.

The report highlights a series of characteristics of successful anchor institutions that can help reach out to small businesses and to successfully develop their leadership skills, but of paramount importance was the creation of partnerships that draw on the strengths of different organisations. For example, in Doncaster, an established partnership of the Council, Chamber of Commerce and private sector consultancy, brought together complementary public and private perspectives on management development.

Claire Bossward, Project Manager at Doncaster MBC says:

This project has not only allowed us the freedom to experiment, learn, adapt and evaluate (and the results have been surprising!), it has also strengthened our partnership, benefited business and effected change. We have recognised that within the Council walls we have valuable knowledge and experience that absolutely can work and be delivered in a private sector setting. The blend of commercial versus empathetic styles really added value to the small firm’s experience. The organisations involved in the delivery feel like one organisation, not separate entities, and that’s when you know you are in a true partnership.

Successful partnerships are built on established relationships, mutual interest and time commitment. Where personal relationships already existed, and organisational interests were aligned, partnerships got off to a smoother start, those which had to develop these partnerships took longer to get the building blocks in place.

Other factors that led to successful projects included:
• The profile of these organisations usually attracted small firms because they had a good reputation or could offer access to other services, such as Innovation Advisers that were offered in Teesside University’s project.
• Offering a structured but flexible learning programme, responsive to busy small businesses. Laura’s professional partner will need to offer that for the foxtrot to be fantastic!

Small businesses have really gained through these partnerships, reporting ‘light bulb moments’ leading to the development of strategies, unblocking of bottle necks and improvements in management and business performance. And what’s good for small businesses can also be good for anchor institutions who reported benefits of taking part in the programme as:
• An opportunity to tackle local skills issues and tailor to the needs of the local economy.
• Develop those vital relationships with new partners that could support the evolving devolution agenda.
• An additional market for trading expertise amongst small, ambitious businesses.

There is huge potential for local anchor institutions to work together to develop management skills in local small businesses. The reports we have published show how this can be done, without the need for glitter and sequins!

Carol Stanfield
Assistant Director, UKCES

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