Collaboration: What Makes It Work?
When done right, collaboration can be a powerful tool to bring about needed change in our communities. Cooperation and coordination are ways we work together; collaboration is the most intense relationship organizations can have, creating results they are much more likely to achieve together than alone. Collaboration, therefore, is not another program or project. This means collaboration must be approached differently.
COLLABORATIONS NEED TIME TO DEVELOP, AND RESOURCES FOR THE PROCESS. Policy makers and funders must allow the time needed for these complicated problem-solving processes to take place, and provide resources for these activities.
COLLABORATIONS COMBINE RESOURCES; THEY DO NOT CREATE BUREAUCRACIES. Collaborations are results-driven. This process is undertaken to achieve changes organizations cannot achieve alone. Usually, collaborations combine resources – dollars, staff, expertise, information, etc. – in order to leverage other community , regional and national contributions.
COLLABORATIONS DEVELOP DIFFERENTLY IN RURAL AREAS.
COLLABORATION AND EVALUATION ARE INTEGRAL.
COLLABORATIONS INVOLVE LEADERSHIP IN NEW WAYS.
Organizations are represented by the staff they send to the partners’ table. Often, as the complex process unfolds, these staff have profound insights into complex problems. It is a difficult task to keep each organizations’ leadership informed but not over-involved in the daily work of the collaboration. Many collaborations stall when key leaders are not kept up to speed, or do not understand the decisions they are being asked to make. Policy makers and funders should establish clear expectations about the role leaders will take in the process, and support risk-taking decisions that move the collaboration’s efforts ahead.
COLLABORATION INVOLVES PRUDENT RISK.
COLLABORATIONS MUST BE ALLOWED TO DEMONSTRATE THE PROCESS BEFORE THE PRODUCT. Policy makers and funders can best evaluate initial successes by measuring processes. Specific service-related changes cannot be expected until later.
Thanks to the Amherst Wilder Research Center for these comments.