Developing cultures of collaboration

To deliver the affordable housing needed, re-evaluating our current approach is crucial. In this workshop, delegates joined expert speakers for a skills surgery to explore collaborative working and the importance of “psychological safety” in organisations.


  • Ria Bailes, Managing Director, Bailes Partners Consulting
  • Andy Donald, Chief Executive, LB Haringey
  • Michael Nathan, Emerging Talent Programme Manager, FoL (chair)
  • Elizabeth Rapoport, Assistant Director – Strategy, Homes England
  • Nissa Shahid, Digital First Lead, Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service

Top tips for strong collaboration

Following lively discussion at the skills surgery workshop, delegates and speakers shared key takeaways from exploring the question: Can better collaborative working break down silos and help deliver more affordable housing?

  • Trust within organisations and across partnerships is vital. This can start with an internal change of culture. Create an environment where fears can be addressed and create a culture where actively collaborating is rewarded
  • Preconceptions: leave preconceived ideas of what a partnership will look like at the door. This is likely to be based on anxieties and fear rather than fact.
  • Transparency: There is often a willingness to collaborate, but a lack of transparency can hamper this. Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and what resources you need to achieve this.
  • Time: we need to make the time to create structurally collaborative processes – especially in the public sector. External actors often perceive local authorities as inefficient, which is a big barrier to collaboration. We need to take the time to fix this by reviewing systems and bringing in wider management structures.

The importance of language

When building partnerships to deliver affordable housing, common language and a shared understanding of fundamental principles is key to success. “We use a lot of adjectives that mean different things to different people,” noted Elizabeth from Homes England

It can seem obvious to define terms like affordable housing but is often overlooked. Consistency is vital so that teams can work towards the same goals.

Looking at the behavioural side of organisational development

Psychological safety within organisations is the key element that supports approaches to collaboration.

To get this right, we need to recognise the diversity in our organisations and act on this at organisational, manager and individual levels. Without psychological safety, you don’t have trust and cannot effectively collaborate.

“Psychological safety is the confidence that we feel to stick our hands up and put our own ideas forward without feeling either silly or that we might lose our jobs.”

Ria Bailes, Bailes Partners Consulting

Andy from Haringey Council highlighted the importance of ensuring people are empowered and motivated to do their work. When working at LB Redbridge, he established a growth commission which gave people the opportunity to discuss their concerns about growth.

This sort of psychological safety can translate to people engaging more enthusiastically with the local community in delivering higher quality homes and livelihoods.

Unlocking relationships through technology and data sharing

Collaboration and breaking down silos are key to avoiding the duplication of work. Nissa from the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning Service shared an example of five teams spending time and money collecting the same data.

Two Cambridgeshire councils created a shared planning service. It uses digital technology and data sharing in the planning system to become more efficient, unlock relationships and better deliver urgently needed housing.

Collaboration for a more diverse and impactful sector

Breaking down silos to deliver more affordable housing isn’t just about joint ventures and data sharing. The sector also needs to come together and collaborate on issues like the lack of diversity within the built environment.

Michael from FoL’s Emerging Talent Programme said that partnerships that work towards increasing the diversity of the sector improve the sector as a whole.

We know increased diversity leads to better innovation and outcomes. Don’t miss out on opportunities to contribute to improving diversity and inclusion with other actors within the built environment.

Affordable Housing: Overcoming crisis through collaboration is a cross-sector research and events programme that aims to make practical recommendations.

Contact Anna Odedun, Head of Knowledge, to get involved. Thanks to project sponsors Countryside, Montagu Evans, Pollard Thomas Edwards, Potter Raper and Trowers and Hamlins, and our conference sponsors Altair, Inner Circle Consulting and Big Society Capital.