A large red billboard on the side of a building says 'Community is Strength'

Infrastructure done differently in Sheffield’s youth space

Could we transform the ways in which we approach collaborative working?

In the context of this post, infrastructure refers broadly to the means and ways through which organisations are supported and encouraged work together: by sharing information, skills, and learning, coordinating, collaborating, forming partnerships, and so on.

Anyone who works in a voluntary or public sector leadership or management role will most likely attend various forums, networking sessions, meetings for partnerships, alliances, consortiums and more, often set up explicitly or implicitly to provide this kind of infrastructure.

Many of these will provide valuable opportunities. Yet, how often do we and our colleagues in these positions either hear or reflect the following kinds of thoughts?

‘That partnership meeting is just a talking shop. Lots gets discussed but nothing much ever really gets done.’

‘Meetings that are intended to be about strategic collaboration can end up being networking and information sharing opportunities.’

‘We’d love to engage more in collaborative work such as this, we just simply don’t have the time due to the pressures of our work and funding’

‘We used to attend a similar partnership several years ago. This is now the 3rd iteration of it, and we’re still no more convinced that it is an equitable, accountable, transparent and fair platform to get things done together’

If any of those sentiments feel familiar, you’re certainly not alone!

At the same time, collaboration, creativity, and innovation have never been more important for a voluntary and community sector struggling for funding, and in many cases struggling to meet growing need that is outpacing supply. We need effective ways for organisations to work together more than ever.

We have to develop new approaches to building the kind of infrastructure support that organisations need. This is something we hope to contribute to, by developing a set of projects each utilising different ways of imagining and building infrastructure. Approaches that could be termed ‘infrastructure done differently’.

No more talking shops! Prioritising learning by doing and iterating quickly over deliberation and long term visioning that can sometimes feel endless and completely disconnected from the communities we are trying to help. Requiring organisations and leaders to act early as a demonstration of the willing required if we are going to make progress on the most challenging civic and societal challenges that we face.

Find out more here about how we hope to put ‘infrastructure done differently’ at the top of the agenda in Sheffield’s youth space in 2024!