B2 Strong relationships and good communication
This section covers:
Mutual understanding of, and respect for, one another’s roles underpins effective tri-agency collaboration and joint work.
The goal is to be able to see others’ points of view and bring these perspectives together.
A failure to understand roles and recognise the validity of each agency’s perspective, and the wider needs of their organisations, is a recognised barrier to effective joint work.
In contrast, a tri-agency collaboration where the fundamentals of each agency’s roles and drivers are understood can draw on the complementary perspectives and different skills, experience and resources that each agency brings to planning and actions to reduce alcohol-related harm.
For example, health can bring a population health and disease prevention lens to joint work, while Police can offer understanding of legal options and ramifications.
Applying the different resources and abilities from each of the agencies underpinned the joint approach taken to address issues associated with the Electric Avenue festival.
All three regulatory agencies, working alongside the Council Events Team (and other parts of Council), event organisers and the university, implemented a multifaceted prevention-focused strategy to reduce issues.
Complementary capabilities also featured in management of alcohol-related harm in Canterbury sports clubs, where success was assisted by various partners having different contacts and communication channels.
B 2.2.1 Take time to build positive interagency relationships
Collaborations depend on partners putting time and energy into their relationships with each other.
Interagency relationships and communication are:
- Impacted positively by
- Co-location or close proximity, which prompts day-to-day communication
- Consistency of personnel over time; those in long-standing roles can help to smooth the transition during inevitable changes in personnel
- Regular, open communication and information sharing
- Clear understanding of, and respect for, one another’s roles and contribution
- Shared sense of purpose
- A ‘no surprises’ approach with respect to positions on licences and hearings
- Impacted negatively by
- High rates of personnel turnover
- Untabled differences in agency perspectives
- Competing demands on time that interrupt planned interactions
- A history of poor relationships
- Differing organisational drivers eg, a customer service focus in Council vs a crime/crash focus of Police
Not all regions are able to benefit from enablers such as co-location. However, it is helpful to build on enablers that are in place and to recognise and mitigate barriers.
For example, clarity on a shared overarching purpose and each party’s role can help address a history of poor relationships and what may appear to be competing interests.
Regular, open communication and joint planning work will expose differences in organisational drivers and perspectives and prompt efforts to work around these.
B 2.2.2 Mitigate for personnel changes
Regular personnel changes impact on the ability to build relationships and maintain momentum in line with agreed actions.
High rates of Police Alcohol Harm Prevention team turnover and competing Police personnel obligations are widely cited as a key challenge to interagency collaboration and joint actions.
Effective mitigators of regular changes in personnel have included using:
- well-informed and longer-standing sister agency personnel who are resourced to bridge the transition and bring new personnel up to date quickly
- regional support within agencies to mentor new personnel; for example, Christchurch City Council Licensing Team will job shadow new inspectors from neighbouring territorial authorities
- routine training within each agency and across agencies and regions
- self-reflective activities such as partnership assessment to both set up and assess effective collaboration; these tools were used in the Alcohol Harm Prevention Partnership (AHPP) in Nelson Tasman in response to a substantial turnover in agency personnel.
Well-conducted cross-agency meetings can help to keep all parties up to date, flag issues, review progress in specific areas, share information and build the relationships that underpin effective collaborative action.
However, caution is needed to ensure that routine meetings are not mistaken for collaboration.
Tri-agency meetings feature in regions where there are more and less effective regulatory agency joint actions and relationships. Ensuring effective meeting processes can assist.
- More effective meeting processes
- There is a framework for operation, and a clear agenda and purpose
- Agreements and decisions are documented
- Attendees come prepared and report on progress on assigned, agreed tasks
- Effective leadership drives accountability
- Ad hoc communication continues outside the meeting
- Less effective meeting processes
- The meeting itself is seen as collaboration
- Documentation is lacking, which reduces accountability
- There is a lack of meeting planning and preparation
- The meeting replaces ad hoc ongoing communication
- There is no strategic regulatory agency operational planning and resourcing
Joint agency meetings that currently take place tend to focus on licensing activities, with a few exceptions.
In line with s295(b), effective meeting processes need to identify and drive progress towards agreed regulatory agency goals for reducing alcohol-related harm and project initiatives.
Section 295 of the Act adds transparency to and legitimises collaborative tri-agency work.
Ideally this translates to higher management in all three regulatory agencies viewing collaborative action as valid, and resourcing to ensure collaborative approaches are workable.
A recognised barrier to effective joint work is a lack of management level recognition or understanding of the legitimate function of collaboration and the full scope of the regulatory officers’ legislative role under s295(b). Related to this is the failure to allow personnel to take the time needed to engage and work collaboratively.
If collaboration is recognised as a legitimate part of agency personnel licensing roles, there is no need to revisit the function with each change in regulatory or management personnel. This also means there is likely to be organisational planning and resourcing to support these functions.
Effective interagency relationships need to operate at regulatory management as well as operational levels.
Figure 1 shows the types of cross-agency links that support effective collaboration and plans for alcohol harm reduction.
These cross-agency links are supported by good communication between strategic and operational levels within the regulatory agencies.
Effective cross-agency regulatory collaboration for joint planning and aligned actions helps to ensure coherent and consistent messages to licensees and other stakeholders like community groups. This enhances message impact and reduces the risk of differing or conflicting advice.
Tri-agency regulatory communications such as newsletters for licensees or a community brochure on licence oppositions will reinforce this messaging.
 See, for example, the Partnership Assessment Tool, developed by the Nuffield Institute for Health (renamed the Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development in 2004), and the Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory, developed by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.