A collaboration’s shared purpose and directions will inform all aspects of your work. It gives shape to your governance requirements and links partners together. Without clearly articulated outcomes and strategies, collaborations can be pulled toward specific partner agendas and can lose the lever to hold all partners accountable for results. Regular evaluation of your collaboration can help to keep you on track and motivate partner commitment.
What do we need to consider in negotiating our shared purpose and directions?
A vision, purpose statement and set of strategies describe what your collaboration is trying to achieve, for whom, why it’s important and how it will be done. These should be based on a unique value proposition that benefits all partners. Create an open environment for partners to discuss and negotiate their interests and needs. Revisit your directions when goals are achieved or are not being met and when there is turnover in partners or other significant changes in the environment.
How can evaluation inform our collaboration work and future directions?
Evaluation is a process of inquiry that facilitates learning by asking critical questions. It helps inform and improve your collaborative decision-making. In your evaluation plan, include a review of collaboration structures, processes and relationships as well as progress towards outcomes. Make sure to look out for both intended and unintended outcomes.
Using Planning and Evaluation to Ensure Success
A group of organizations collaborating on leadership programming established a comprehensive evaluation plan at project start to support them over the multi year project. A theory of change was negotiated and a comprehensive evaluation framework created that enabled the group to address issues of accountability, review program outcomes, identify learning about effective practice and determine how well the collaboration itself was working. There was also room in the framework for capturing unplanned outcomes, both positive and negative.
Discovering How Well Your Collaboration is Functioning
A collaboration committed to co-ordinating newcomer service delivery didn’t wait for conflict and mistrust to become disruptive. They set up a process to regularly review how well the collaboration was functioning and the quality of the relationships. They documented their organizing principles and values and their conflict mediation process in a collaboration agreement so everyone was on the same page. They also circulated an evaluation checklist describing the characteristics of an effective collaboration. These tools were used as a backdrop for open dialogue and reflection that resulted in a more effective collaboration.