Written by Anna Fowlie,  December 2020 for our Collaboration & Working Across Boundaries event, 10th December 2020.

Collaboration has always been important, but over the last 10 months its been both crucial and difficult. 

Working collectively is essential to delivering the right outcomes for the people we serve, the quality of service they experience and a genuinely person-centred approach. That’s writ large in health and social care – its been talked about for decades yet we’re still not getting it right. 

Everyone has good examples from different parts of the systembut equally we all have examples where that fell apart when those different parts needed to speak to, or complement, each other. When my mother had her hip replaced, everyone focused on the hip and not on my mother. The GP didn’t know what was available, there was no social work assessment, the hospital didn’t ask what support she had at home before they discharged her. I was then chief executive of the SSSC. When I gave her questions to ask, the response was “who’s telling you that?” and the phrase “ivory tower” may have been mentioned! 

 I believe in collaboration because it’s the right thing to do for people and communities, and you’re more likely to achieve a good result. The best results come from maximising everyone’s skills and experience. That doesn’t just mean professionals – it includes the person and their family.  

 At SCVO, it’s important for me to raise the profile of the role of the voluntary sector in all aspects of Scottish society, including the economy. Working in partnership with other voluntary organisationsand the public and private sectors is important for our members and for the people they support or issues they address.  

When we focus on our own roles or organisations, or worse if we’re wedded to siloed targets, it can be difficult and time-consuming to remember to work with others. Building and maintaining relationships is hard work but it’s worth it. Respect matters to me. I always try to remember that everyone brings their own expertise and knowledge and thats valuable. I’m fascinated by how people behave, especially at work – their motivation, aspirations, challenges.

We have to be realistic. There will always be a player with more power, whether it’s financial, statutory, the ear of a special adviser or whatever – but that’s for noting, not for wielding! 

Collaboration works where everyone values each other’s contribution, listens, reflects and is open to challenge. It doesn’t work if it’s simply ticking a box or if one partner flexes their muscles.  


We enjoyed a great 10th December where Anna shared these insights and  her experience and opened up the event to hear experiences from participants. The event insights pack will be available in the events page  in mid December for everyone to explore further.

Our thanks to Anna Fowlie  for this blog, as one of our contributors in our Collaboration & Working Across Boundaries event,  supported by Kaleidoscope, Project Lift’s Community partners. Find out more about our community events past and present .