Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Developing Partnerships to Meet Clients' Needs in Changing Government Organizations: A Consultative Process

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Developing Partnerships to Meet Clients' Needs in Changing Government Organizations: A Consultative Process

Article excerpt

The article outlines the development of partnerships across 3 employment-related government ministries, in a context of organizational restructuring and downsizing. The article describes a consultation process conducted with workers from 2 provincial ministries and 1 federal government ministry regarding effective collaboration to assess unemployed clients' employability needs. In individual and focus group meetings, the workers developed a process that involved the cooperation and involvement of those from all 3 ministries in offering and monitoring the effectiveness of a needs assessment program.

Much has been written about the changing nature of organizational structures in government both on an international (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 1998) and on a national level (McDavid & Marson, 1991; Government of Canada, 1997). Most of these changes have been implemented with a focus on improving service and have involved restructuring, downsizing, and changing the way governments do business. This has often resulted in decisions to transfer work that had previously been done by one government ministry to another ministry or to the private sector. These and other related actions have been typically guided by

a focus on results in efficiency, effectiveness, quality of service and whether the intended beneficiaries actually gain; a decentralized management system . . . so that decisions on resource allocation and service delivery are made closer to the point of delivery, and which provide scope for feedback from clients and other interest groups; a greater client focus and provision for client choice. . . ; the flexibility to explore more cost effective alternatives to direct public provision or regulation . . . ; accountability for results and for establishing due process rather than compliance with particular set of rules, and a related change from avoidance of risk to risk management. (OECD, 1998, p. 13)

Among the consequences of sharing tasks across organizational structures has been the need to form new partnerships and to develop strategies for communication among the organizations involved (Flower, 1995).

The purpose of this article is to illustrate an evolving process of workers from three government work contexts, all of which were undergoing continued restructuring, attempting to set up innovative partnerships to enhance service delivery for unemployed clients through a common needs assessment program. More specifically, the article describes a process of consultation that was implemented to develop a cooperative and effective approach for determining the employability of long-term unemployed people in a small city in a remote northern area of western Canada. The successful implementation of the process required active participation of staff members from two provincial ministries, one federal ministry, and a community agency. Before the consultation, managers and supervisors had decided to seriously consider the use of a needs assessment program called "Starting Points" (Borgen, 1995) as the main focus of the partnership process. One of the employment counselors from the federal ministry involved in the project had been trained in how to conduct the program.


Starting Points is a group-based needs assessment program that helps unemployed clients to identify their barriers to employment and to focus on their assets and personal strengths. It culminates in an action plan or plans designed to connect the clients with the help they need to address the identified barriers (Borgen, 1995).

A study of the implementation of Starting Points in nine communities in British Columbia showed that the program was effective for a wide range of long-term unemployed clients (Borgen, 1999). The study indicated, however; that the program requires a supportive infrastructure that includes clear criteria regarding clients who can be referred to the program, an effective process for client referral, qualified leaders to facilitate the program, and appropriate resources for clients to access after they have completed the program (McKnight Foundation, 1999). …

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