Perceived effectiveness, structure and function of the Strategic Partnership
The establishment of the Strategic Partnership was described as one of the biggest successes of the project. Stakeholders believed that the Strategic Partnership was effective in achieving its goals of capacity building through the transfer of knowledge, skills and expertise between members, and collaborative action through the development and execution of a shared action plan. The Strategic Partnership was viewed by most as essential for intervention planning and decision-making processes that underpinned the execution of the intervention and perceived to be a ‘background enabler’ for intervention delivery.
Interviewees felt that having the “right” organisations and individuals involved, with a diverse range of skills and expertise, and creating a positive learning climate, where they were able to share ideas and provide input into the strategy, were important components for designing and delivering a feasible, evidence-based salt reduction intervention in Victoria. Strong engagement from organisational leaders and salt champions were enablers for establishing and sustaining momentum and enthusiasm for the project. The commitment of members of the Strategic Partnership, demonstrated through their consistent attendance at quarterly strategic meetings, was viewed as an enabler to achieving strong communication, joint decision making and collaborative action.
“I think you had the right organisations, strong leadership within those organisations and good expertise.” (Research 2, membership: SP, I, R)
“The regular meetings were really good opportunities, they were well-run and focused and so I think they were fantastic opportunities to build momentum in the salt space and the hypertension space, we really hadn’t had something like that for a really long time, so that was terrific.” (NGO 8, membership: SP)
Most members spoke positively about the experience of being involved in the Strategic Partnership and the development of the shared action plan. Though one stakeholder shared that there was some healthy dispute between members. A few stakeholders questioned whether the agreed strategy contained the right interventions. They suggested that the intervention arms aiming to change the food environment, such as Industry Engagement, should have received greater focus and resources.
“Everyone's passionate who was around the table on this issue and of course you're going to have some heat, and that's part of it, it shouldn't all just be smooth sailing, you need people to question, challenge whether you need the consumer piece or do you just focus on the food reformulation or do you do the debate and the policies?” (NGO 7; membership: SP)
“I think the Heart Foundation to the extent that it delivered an intervention, did deliver an intervention pretty effectively, but whether the intervention was the intervention that needed delivering I think is a key question.” (Research 4; membership: SP, R)
Differences in perspectives on the Partnership structure and function illustrated important communication and knowledge gaps. Some of the implementation team viewed the role of Strategic Partnership as less important, likely because day-to-day functioning and decision-making was carried out at the level of the implementation team. A few interviewees proposed this communication gap was the result of a high turnover of staff within the implementation team and suggested more could have been done to transfer knowledge and capacity to new implementation team members through better on-boarding processes.
“We could have done more in terms of really making sure the new people who came in were fully aware of what the precise goals of the partnership, the ways of working and that we did everything we could to ensure that the capacity was transferred for the relevant people…I think sometimes you just underestimate the benefits or stopping, taking stock, making sure that absolutely everybody in the partnership is on the same page and has all the relevant background information and knowledge and skills in order to ensure that the project continues on the same track, and I think potentially we could have spent some more time doing that.” (Research 2, membership: SP, I, R)
These gaps resulted in a misunderstanding of the Strategic Partnership’s roles and responsibilities by some, which was illustrated in how interviewees described contributions to the coordinated efforts for delivering the intervention.
Attend four meetings a year, we’re just looking for their input, looking for their contribution, looking for where they might be able to amplify communication messages (SGSA 11, membership: SP, I, R)
All of the aspects of the partnership plan were developed through consultation with myself and the other strategic leaders. (SGSA 13, membership: SP)