The difference support from CollaborationNI can make to your organisation

12 Dec 2011     Last updated: 20 Jun 2014

Maeve Monaghan, CEO of NOW, spoke to CollaborationNI Co-ordinator Leeann Kelly about her involvement in the programme and her wider thoughts on collaboration. NOW, along with partners Stepping Stones and The Orchardville Society, registered an interest

NOW, Stepping Stones and The Orchardville Society are involved in a number of funded partnership projects, some between all three organisations and some between two of them. The organisations were not under any pressure from funders to pursue further collaborative ventures; the desire to develop the partnerships came from within.

True partnership

Maeve explained that conversations between herself and Paula Jennings, CEO of Stepping Stones and Alan Thomson, CEO of The Orchardville Society, became more about how they wanted to move their work towards ‘true partnership’ and beyond the traditional requirements of partnership set out in funding agreements. As they began to explore this issue, they became aware of the CollaborationNI programme and submitted their interest.

“CollaborationNI has allowed us to get our houses in order, before someone (namely funders) tries to do it for us. It has allowed us, as Chief Executives to begin a dialogue that has the potential to move our work from partnership for funding to true collaboration”.

Expert facilitation

Under the programme the organisations availed of expert facilitation which was used to explore their current partnerships and future opportunities. Expert facilitation gave the Chief Executives the opportunity to have difficult discussions, which included what they were willing to do together and equally what was not up for discussion. The organisations agreed that merger was something they were not interested in, but they felt that they could do more to work harder and smarter together. All the organisations valued the expert facilitation as summed up by Maeve Monaghan.

“Ricky’s input was invaluable (Stellar Leadership). CEOs need very expert facilitation, as we are not used to being told what to do… The Expert Facilitation allowed us to have conversations and explore ideas and opportunities which meant that although we (NOW, Stepping Stones and Orchardville) will each remain independent and have our own identities, in the future we hope that many of our services will be delivered in partnership”

Like all collaborative ventures, it is an ongoing process that requires time and commitment. There have been bumps in the road as the CEOs strive to make ‘true partnership’ a reality for their organisations. There is full recognition that this cannot happen overnight and will require buy-in at all levels in their organisations.

This has involved setting up structures and processes that allow individuals at different levels to come together to review work, discuss any issues and plan for the future. 

In-house training

As part of their commitment to develop a spirit of true partnership between the organisations, they have requested bespoke in-house training from CollaborationNI. This training will bring together all the staff that work in these projects and will be delivered by CollaborationNI in December 2011. It is hoped this in-house training will offer the individuals an opportunity to buy-in and develop the spirit of ‘true partnership’ working in their projects. 

Working across organisations brings with it challenges, yet these organisations are not afraid to stand up to these challenges and do whatever is required to move them forward, at a time and speed that suits all stakeholders. 

Maeve Monaghan, on why they are engaging this work and why they are involved in the CollaborationNI programme, said: ‘It is time for us to lead on collaboration, rather than be led’.  

Ready to lead in collaboration?

Are you ready to lead in the field of collaboration? To find out more about CollaborationNI contact Leeann Kelly, Programme Co-ordinator at [email protected], or Andrew Talbot, Legal Adviser at [email protected], visit or call 028 9087 7777. 


CollaborationNI was launched as a partnership project between NICVA, CO3 and Stellar Leadership in March 2011, funded by Building Change Trust. It is designed to provide support to organisations engaging in collaborative working or mergers. There has been much demand for the project and since its launch over 200 participants have attended its activities. 


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