Compact networking: A challenge worth taking on

Adam pickeringCompact leads are a diverse group. Only a handful of areas fund a dedicated Compact officer, but most will have someone with responsibility for taking forward the Compact - even if its just one aspect of their job. 

Compact leads, therefore, do not necessarily share a common job title, profession or even sector from one area to another. This can make it difficult to establish a way of networking with each other, but such diversity is also the ingredient that could make a local Compact even more effective.

Networking is a highly effective way of testing ideas and sharing learning. 

The fact that most Compact leads are not part of any sort of network seems like a missed opportunity. Compact leads are often the only person who has a responsibility (formal or otherwise) for supporting the Compact in their area. As such, networking with other Compact leads would be especially beneficial. 

Compact networks in the West Midlands and the Humber region in particular have resulted in better engaged workers, more innovative ideas and have ultimately driven up standards. It is no coincidence that those areas which have engaged Compact networks tend to have the most effective Compacts. 

Despite the benefits, Compact networks are the exception rather than the rule with most Compact leads working in isolation. Yet even when effort has been made to facilitate networking it has not always been successful. For example, Compact Voice recently closed the online NING forum (the Local Compact Voice Network) due to low levels of engagement. Similarly, when I raised the idea of facilitating some sort of London Compact group I received a fairly muted response (although some were very enthusiastic).

So why are Compact leads so reluctant to engage with one another? 

The problem in establishing such a network of Compact leads is often that they see their allegiance and core interest as being with their sector or their profession first, and the wider local partnership second. Whatever the future brings for delivering public services, it will certainly require a change in this attitude.

Another barrier to networking is the perception that the learning from one area will not necessarily apply to another. It is certainly true to say that a comparison between local areas which discounts local circumstances would add little value. The old Comprehensive Performance Assessment inspection regime showed that measuring one area against another had limited value in terms of driving up standards. However, Compacts are different to organisations. For the most part getting a local Compact off the ground is about dealing with people, and the people on one side of a border tend to be broadly the same as the people on the other. 

So when Compact leads come together and share information, local Compacts benefit. And when local Compacts are effective, local people benefit. I believe that networking is both highly productive and time efficient and as we try to facilitate more networking I hope you give it a try.
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