When reflecting on what to write to celebrate ecda’s second birthday, the ‘terrible twos’ springs to mind....
Over the last 8 months I have been leading a new project to share Essex County Council and Essex Police data on domestic abuse in a safe, secure, ethical and legal way, with the end goal of having a joined-up picture and better intelligence about the characteristics of perpetrators across our county.
“What does this have to do with two years olds?” I hear you say…
Both parents and paediatricians often speak of the ‘terrible twos.’ It's a normal developmental phase experienced by young children that's often marked by struggles and frustrations in learning how to communicate effectively and play well with others (we’ve all seen a supermarket toddler tantrum!) – all of which can be likened to partnership working.
So, here are my top 5 tips for successful collaboration across boundaries based on what I’ve learnt and found most valuable to date, (which coincidentally align perfectly to the top tips for parents coping with troublesome toddlers!)
The domestic abuse perpetrators project is a complex and sensitive one. In April this year, the new Domestic Abuse Bill became law and is now known as the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. The act made it a statutory requirement for local authorities to provide support and services, not just for victims of domestic abuse and their children, but for perpetrators, too.
So, by working with our commissioners and members of the Southend, Essex and Thurrock domestic abuse board, it was key to understand what insight was needed and why. As part of our scoping phase, we used the NESTA four-step method to help us to define the end outcome, clarify the specific question, understand what data we have (and the quality of it) and design what solution could be best suited. This is a method we use across our portfolio and is a useful tool to use when trying to define a problem and begin developing key research questions.
Our conversation and engagement with key stakeholders didn’t end once we had a clear scope. It’s been important for us to talk about and raise issues we saw on the horizon in advance via a multi-disciplinary working group. Bringing analysts and decision-makers together helps us to utilise different skills, backgrounds and subject matter expertise, which enriches our work. This combined knowledge has provided different perspectives on key aspects of the project, such as governance, risk, and datasets. Maintaining communication with partners throughout the project lifecycle means we stay transparent and open about what we are doing and why.
We are not the experts at everything! Sometimes it’s more appropriate to seek specialist advice, a different perspective or healthy constructive challenge from an external party. The Domestic Abuse Perpetrator project was the first to have been reviewed by ecda’s newly established independent Data Ethics Committee, which has helped to ensure we have a clear and strong link to delivering public benefit. Advice was also sought from the (also new) Methodology Board, who are helping to test and assure the quality and robustness of our methods.
We are currently in the analysis phase of our project and have assembled a team of analysts and subject matter experts from all three ecda partners - not an easy task when each organisation has a different culture and different terminologies. It’s important we work together closely and verify our findings with each other as we go. No analyst will be left bored in this part of the process – there are always opportunities to discover new insights. So far, the team have reported that they are learning new skills from each other, which is a great added bonus.
For every negative, there is usually a positive. It’s common to hear parents refer to raising children as “the most challenging, but most rewarding job.” So if the ‘terrible twos’ can teach us anything about working in partnership, it’s to stick with it and eventually reap the rewards. Resolutions for challenges will be found, and opportunities to overcome more will always emerge - and we should never forget our mission to improve outcomes for local people.