© Ivelinr | - Partnership Puzzle Concept Photo
© Ivelinr | Dreamstime.comPartnership Puzzle Concept Photo


I feel a bit Goring-like when I hear the word ‘partnership’.  I’m all for partnership but only as a ‘means’ and not as an ‘end’.

All too often these days, those in nature conservation talk of partnership as if it’s the only way to get things done but it clearly isn’t.

I’m all for effective partnerships, and I have enjoyed quite a few very effective professional partnerships (both as a scientist and as a nature conservationist), and indeed set up quite a few, but others have been time-consuming, energy-sapping, unproductive and, quite honestly, dispiriting and a complete waste of time. So, as in other aspects of life, one must choose one’s professional partners carefully.

I spoke at a Local Nature Partnership event in Northampton a couple of weeks ago. I spoke a little about localness and nature but I didn’t say much about partnership (largely because I thought everyone else would be banging on about it).  I left them with the ‘means ‘ not ‘ends’ thought and with this example: if I had to choose between more partnership and less nature, or more nature and less partnership, I’d choose more nature every time.

726px-thumbnailI was reminded of this at the Response for Nature event last week when the minister, Rory Stewart, said that when William I created the Royal Forests they never really captured the public imagination and we must do much better and push for a public conversation about nature. Really? You get to be a minister and your reaction is to have a chat about things? That’s not exactly what fellow ministers George Osborne and Frances Maude did when they arrived in 2010 was it?

I’m not aware that William I was a great environmentalist, in fact he seems a bit of bastard by all accounts, but I notice that the New Forest is still there for us to enjoy. When William nipped over here from Normandy, with a bunch of other robber barons, he realised he had power and he used it (and no doubt abused it).  It’s what people do that is their legacy and that applies, most particularly to ministers. Defra is doing very little right now.

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5 Replies to “Partnership”

  1. According to 'Shotover, the Natural History of a Royal Forest' by David Steel royal forests were established in Saxon times and their main function was to provide hunting grounds for the king. Hardly National Parks unless you mean the Peak District!

  2. Some partnerships are effective, despite being governed by committees. However, I'm minded to agree with the Robert Copeland quote: "To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent."

  3. "..he had power...(and no doubt abused it)."

    I should say so.

  4. To misquote Hermann Goering [he hated culture] "when I hear the word partnership I reach for my revolver"..

    The other dreadful word which means to me - "establishment takeover" "watering down of original ideas" and just generally pointless, unproductive bureaucracy, is Protocol.

    As soon as someone says you must join a partnership or sign up to a protocol your organisation/idea/vision is doomed.

    That's not just an opinion that's cold hard nature conservation....I would start with the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime Scotland [PAWCS] as an example. [or whatever its called this year, another pointer to failed partnerships is when they constantly change names...whats that quasi scientific organisation that works for shooting interests called this week?].

  5. Yes indeed. It depends on the motivations of the partners. If one or more party is joining a partnership in order to drive progress into the sand - in the manner of Governments setting up Commissions or Committees to 'look into the issue' as a means of kicking the issue down the road - then the partnership has a strong possibility of being a miserable road to nowhere. That said, if partnerships can be used to open doors just a fraction and this slight shift in position is then used to engage the unwilling in actions that can lead to surprising end-points, partnerships can sometimes be more useful than throwing chairs at each other.


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