To collaborate is to work together so smoothly that customers see no boundaries between the entities providing services to them. Collaboration creates transparency, efficiency, productivity and the personal satisfaction that comes from being a part of a genuine team doing important work.

Collaboration has never been more important than it is right now. Budgets are tight and demand for services is exploding. There are huge gaps between agencies and departments into which customers and good intentions disappear. New services, such as those demanded by methamphetamine abuse, require money and joint action to succeed. It requires collaboration.

It takes a large, coordinated effort to solve such problems. Designing, delivering and funding such an effort is difficult in any environment, but especially when resources are spread among independent agencies, each with their own power base, constituency, mission, methods and personalities. Collaboration is a process you can use to meet these challenges.

Karen Ray Collaboration provides information and assistance to those who believe enough in a particular project that they are willing to collaborate. You have to be willing, you see: you can’t simply drag another person into a room and say, “We’re a team now.” What you can do is:

  1. Agree on the need that exists in the community.
  2. Agree on the contribution each organization will make to the common cause ( money, personnel, equipment, information).
  3. Agree on methods and measures of success.
  4. Partner your organizations in an effective collaboration.

Some problems are so large they can only be addressed by joint action. Joint action begins with communication, cooperation and coordination among agencies, but when that isn’t enough the ultimate joint action is collaboration.

Collaboration is the most intense way of working together while still retaining the separate identities of the organizations involved.
The beauty of collaboration is the acknowledgment that each organization has a separate and special function, a power that it brings to the joint effort. At the same time, each separate organization provides valuable services or products often critical to the health and well-being of their community.

Given the variety of joint efforts and the intensity of collaboration, these authors define collaboration as follows:

In this definition, organizations may be formal or informal groups or constituencies, legally incorporated or not. Of course, individuals working alone can also be part of a collaboration, and input from individuals in the community is essential. Yet, if individuals want to make an impact, they usually must represent an organization or community of some kind.