Friday,11 August

By James Windsor, Director at Inner Circle Consulting


At Inner Circle we are committed to making a positive long-term impact for the benefit of the community and our client. Key to doing this is our capacity to build long-term relationships and immerse ourselves in local issues, so we work with deep understanding of an area’s strategic and financial planning.

The best recipe for our success and yours is strategic partnership – in which we work side by side and build trust, credibility and impact.


What is a strategic partnership?

We know how much councils need capacity right now: Years of central government cost-cutting and austerity policies have stripped local authorities of staff and resources but growing, complex need is increasing reliance on council services and demanding urgent, creative responses.


A strategic partnership moves beyond multiple ring-fenced procurements on different projects and instead agrees that a trusted advisor will provide resources, skills, information and support to deliver a series of objectives over a period of time. These agreements bring a level of control and specificity that cannot be found in national procurement frameworks. Local authorities can ensure a strategic partnership focuses on their specific goals and provides the capacity they need.


A well-defined strategic partnership will enable you to replace the skills, experience and capacity lost through restructures and revenue cuts. A strategic partner works with you for long-term, sustainable success and resource growth. A strategic partner is there to discuss everything with you at a time when council leaders have never been so challenged. Moreover, a strategic partner has an appetite for your knottiest problems and the determination to resolve them.


Why form a strategic partnership?

As a team of public sector specialists, ICC knows that successful public services require deep understanding of issues and focus on community solutions. We believe a strategic partnership enables the establishment of a clear foundation built upon the common goals of each partner. With long term partnerships there is no rush to fix a specific problem in the short-term, but instead an opportunity to collaborate, build trust, nurture the relationship – and learn about capabilities, cultures and motivations to build meaningful long-term responses which unlock better futures for everyone in every community.


How do you build trust and credibility?

Trust and credibility must be earned. They must also be maintained. For us, this means not just acting professionally and with integrity always – but also showing we can make a difference quickly and then exceed your expectations. At ICC we pledge to “start quickly and accelerate” – which means making a noticeable difference within the first 4 weeks of any engagement. Thereafter, a standard comment you will hear from ICC staff is “- unless you stop us.” We know that once senior clients make a decision, they want fast action, especially in the current environment. We also know that key stakeholders are more likely to engage with and support projects that are well run and demonstrably under control. And we know too that when credibility and trust are high, projects become more resilient and any disruption is more easily managed.


Key steps to making your strategic partnership successful, compiled by the ICC team:

  • Build your partnership on shared values. These are often overlooked during the procurement process. Your partner needs to know your goals and what you want delivered, but also share those goals and live your values. Ask yourself whether a partner could be influenced by external factors that could compromise the relationship. Does their staff know what your values are or are they just engaged to do a job? Do you trust your partner and their team?
  • Understand exactly how your partnership fits into the bigger strategic picture. Ask yourself whether your partner is engaged at the right level to make the biggest influence.
  • Set key performance indicators and ensure they are measured and monitored. Is your partner delivering on commitments? Importantly: Are they also striving to exceed and over-deliver? We know that projects delivered faster save money. A partner who is plodding to maximise the fee is not a good partner.
  • Trust goes both ways. Are you and your strategic partner both being open and transparent with each other? Do you feel you can discuss everything with your partner and do they support and lift you up? Are there informal ways to develop the relationship into something deeper and beyond the transactional?
  • Agree a process for overcoming disagreements. Every relationship has ups and downs and high stress situations can sometimes boil over. Establish review steps within the implementation stage of the partnership and make sure there is there a mutual feedback loop.


Our case studies:


ICC has been working with Cornwall Council for the last six years. Four of these years have been with Arcadis on the Built Environment Professional Services Framework. Over this time we have helped Cornwall solve some of its knottiest problems, including critical, complex projects like Langarth Garden Village and the Pydar redevelopment, by helping to write its growth strategy and define its approach to skills and employment shortages.


The partnership has been broad and transparent. We have earned Cornwall’s trust. The council talks to us about everything and we are proud to stand alongside its team, supporting them, lifting them up and actively promoting everything they do. We strive to never let them down and to always act in the interests of the local community. With this in mind we have invested in a community group and subsidised its premises within Truro, ensuring that it can continue providing a valued community centre.


Don’t just take our word for it: 

“ICC have taken a good strategic approach to our projects. Mix that with strong management and a detailed approach, which are all really important, and ICC matched exactly what we needed. I like the way ICC work. They applied their collective intelligence to the projects with us in Cornwall and have a level of intellect that is not evident in other consultancies.” – Phil Mason, Strategic Director for Sustainable Growth and Development, Cornwall Council


North Somerset

ICC was appointed, following the completion of an asset strategy, to provide the required capacity and support, restructure the asset management team, implement a corporate landlord model and to prepare numerous business cases on critical projects. We also provided much-needed definition and direction for the project’s successful delivery. We embedded ourselves in the council’s team, rented local office space within a community workspace and provided the flexibility to change the brief and add in additional projects and tasks as required.


Don’t just take our word for it:

“Thank you for all your work over the last 9 months. It has been absolutely brilliant. There have been some bumps along the way, like any relationship, but you have got us to a point where we are 10 years ahead of where we were when we started.” – Jo Walker, Chief Executive, North Somerset Council


Notting Hill Genesis

ICC has been working with NHG for 6 years supporting it with the delivery of the prestigious and complex Grahame Park regeneration project. Our approach has been to work smarter by bringing the community and key stakeholders on the journey, resulting in a scheme that has the full support and drive from the community, which has improved and easier decision making at critical gateways.


Don’t just take our word for it:

“When we brought Inner Circle in as project managers, Grahame Park was one of our highest risk projects, causing considerable concern at Executive and Board level. The Inner Circle team has been central to turning that situation around and developing proposals that have the full support of the organisation as well as our local authority partner and the local community. Inner Circle worked very closely and collaboratively with us, fully understanding and meeting our requirements while also bringing rigour to the design process through robust documentation, meetings and controls. Their detailed understanding of financial viability has been invaluable in ensuring a deliverable scheme and a positive investment decision. The team has a genuine interest in the success of the project and a passion for the work. I would highly recommend Inner Circle to other organisations looking for a team to work collaboratively with you to deliver progress.” – Tracy Lavers – Director of Regeneration, Notting Hill Genesis



Strategic partnerships help you to build deeper relationships, designed for the long-term benefit of the community and the clients goals. The focus moves from reactive work to proactive, resilience-building, innovative design that tackles your biggest issues at their root. At ICC we build these trusted because we always have you and your community’s goals at the heart of our mission.


For more information, write to James Windsor at [email protected]