A network for anyone with an interest in
adult education and mental health

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Equal Partners?

‘Equality’ is an interesting term and it means different things to different people. It is often used in the ‘Equality and Diversity’ context. In which case, equality is not about treating everyone the same, but about putting people in a position where they have the same opportunities. However, a quick search of the word in a dictionary suggests ‘a state of being equal’ and uses language such as fairness, equitability, uniformity and even-handedness. I have been reflecting about what equality means for partnership working.  

I feel privileged to be working in a partnership where all five partners are very engaged in and enthusiastic about the Community Learning Mental Health Project. We have a diverse range of specialisms within these organisations and there is a real sense from everyone involved that we want to deliver quality learning that meets the needs of our learners.

When discussing the budget it became apparent that the model did not fit one of our partner’s expectations or needs. Unlike the other four partners, the staff members working for this partner are not salaried. They work on a project to project basis where each individual project pays for the work required. They made the point that the other four organisations might feel that they can absorb the cost of contributing their time to the project and attending meetings, but, in their case, the money has to come from somewhere to pay for their staff members’ time.

It could be argued that we should be looking at the budget to pay for this organisation’s time for attending meetings. They might feel unable to engage in the project if their staff members are not being paid to do so. However, money can be an emotive subject and the other four organisations might feel that this is unfair. They might, understandably, state that although their staff members are salaried, there is still a cost to their business for them attending meetings for the project. If one partner claims money for their staffs’ time for attending meetings, this could result in all of the partners making legitimate claims. This would impact on our budget and I am conscious of safeguarding funding for delivery so that we can maximise the positive impact of learning for our learners. There is also an argument that there should be an element of goodwill in contributing time and being paid to attend meetings is not in the spirit of partnership working.  

As a valued member of the partnership that contributes excellent creative ideas for the project, I wish to avoid a situation where the organisation feels that they are unable to engage and attend meetings.  However, I feel it is important to be open about the limitations of the budget and manage expectations accordingly. It has highlighted to me, the impact of different financial models of partners when working in partnerships.