Playing in the Sandpit Together Alone.

Jonathon Main


The community services sector is the largest provider of non-profit human services in Australia. This sector has experienced considerable growth as a consequence of public policy and sector reforms introduced by successive governments over the past two decades. These reforms have seen the introduction of private sector managerialist agendas, outsourcing of government services and competitive tendering processes. As the community sector has grown governments have sought to consolidate program funding mechanisms, simplify contracting out arrangements and encourage collaboration and formal partnerships through national tender processes. In recent years there has been significant evidence of governments actively encouraging formal intrasectoral partnerships and consortia in program tenders. While there is a considerable body of overseas and national literature on partnerships and collaboration, the predominant focus is on intersectoral relationships such as public-private partnerships between government and the business sector or government contracted services to the community sector. This research responds to a call for more local research on partnerships and collaboration in the Australian community service sector. A case study approach was used to examine the key drivers of intrasectoral partnership and collaborative practice in the context of the literature within business, government and community sectors. The study found prior interactions between organisations significantly influenced whether these drivers were viewed as strong, weak or ambiguous. The findings contribute to the understanding of intrasectoral partnerships and collaboration in the community sector in that prior relationships understood as parallel (i.e. disengaged) or cooperative in nature, can be predictive of potential partnership relationships and outcomes.

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