Breakfast at Madison’s - VIM sharing back office services

MACS, Include Youth and VOYPIC have all embraced the spirit of collaborative working. This case study presents an example of the investment of time and relationship building that may be required to form a collaborative project in the early stages.

The collaborative project

Breakfast at Madison’s in Belfast has been the foundation of a strong and evolving partnership between Include Youth, MACS and VOYPIC. The coming together and meeting of likeminded individuals has opened up an opportunity to share administrative support.

The process

It has worked because the three leaders committed time on a regular basis and through the sharing of strong coffee; they set out the areas where they could work together. They built upon a relationship which had been formed over a number of years working in the youth sector.  This most definitely has not been a forced marriage. The move from working alongside one another to working together in exploring a formal partnership has been equally exciting and challenging.

MACS, Include Youth and VOYPIC have all fully embraced the spirit of collaborative working. Each of the respective management committees, leaders and staff have bought into and been supported in exploration of partnership working.

The leaders of the three organisations have proven track records of providing a variety of different types of support to young people and vulnerable young people.  Their work has always been seen to be very complementary. Over the past decade or so all three organisations witnessed a substantial increase in demands for their services and in turn each grew.  Interestingly, while each of the organisations has grown, their administrative support has remained almost unchanged.  Each of the leaders became increasingly concerned about the pressure they were placing on their individual administrative support services and were concerned about how long they could continue to operate effectively in their current form.

The leaders of MACS, Include Youth and VOYPIC often discussed their individual concerns.  While each of their independent audits showed their respective organisations to be operating effectively, they could see potential fault lines emerging from the pressure they were placing on their administrative support.  Alongside this, there was a growing concern that the wider environment was becoming more crowded and the need to provide best value for money was becoming more apparent.  It was from this common base that the leaders and the boards of the three organisations began to discuss the possibility of exploring some form of shared administrative services.

The challenges

The leaders of each of the organisations are strong women, who all knew and liked each other, but to work together would require forming a new relationship.  The leader of VOYPIC described that the foundation of this partnership was established over many early morning breakfasts in Madison’s, Botanic Avenue, Belfast.  These 8.00 am meetings at their ‘usual’ table were where much of the work took place in developing their collaborative venture.  During this time, they formed their own mantra of ‘build it and it will come’.  They firmly believed that while at that time there was limited funding or support for organisations wanting to explore collaborative working, that because there was a need it would be supported.

Two of the three organisations were core funded by the Department of Health and they approached the funder to request support to take this idea forward.  Two years ago, the Department of Health provided funding for a feasibility study of shared administrative services between the three organisations.  The feasibility report outlined that the idea of shared administrative support was a viable option that the three organisations could take forward.

MACS, Include Youth and VOYPIC have invested in the partnership and have worked hard in developing this relationship.  In some respects, the organisations are beginning to reap the rewards of their hard work and they have secured funding from Building Change Trust to employ a project manager to guide them through the logistics of developing a shared administrative support service in practice.  In addition, MACS, Include Youth and VOYPIC have engaged the support of CollaborationNI to assist them with various aspects of their partnership working.  Support has included expert facilitated sessions to assist them to plan and set action points in driving their venture forward and legal advice in drawing up their collaboration agreement.

This is an ongoing collaborative venture; watch this space...


Every effort is made to ensure that the contents of this document are accurate, but the advice given should not be relied on as a definitive legal statement.