Understanding Collaboration

1.A Come to a Shared Understanding About Collaboration

Collaboration is a journey that begins with an understanding about how it’s being defined and what it means to participate as an authentic partner. Begin by getting a clear picture in your own mind. Then you’ll be equipped to help others develop a shared perspective, including your management leadership team, Board members and your collaboration partners.

Can we be a truly authentic collaboration partner?
Deciding whether and how you can be a truly authentic collaboration partner and understanding collaboration better will help you invest your resources more wisely. Then you aren’t as likely to confuse collaboration with other types of relationships, like stakeholder engagements or mergers. Before you’re too deep into a collaboration consider whether your organization is ready to share joint responsibility and accountability and commit to collective outcomes.
How can we categorize all of our different kinds of collaborations?
There are many different kinds of collaborations. These range from simply sharing information to more complicated initiatives with many and diverse partners working on complex issues. Before launching into a collaboration think about the various dimensions, including expected impacts, the diversity of partners, and the complexity of issues, to understand the implications for your organization.
One Organization’s Diverse Collaborations
A local Volunteer Centre valued different forms of collaboration. They convened volunteer coordinators to share effective practices and swap training curricula, held joint Annual General Meetings with member agencies, and participated in a cross-sectoral regional roundtable on community wellbeing. Each of these collaborations required different levels of organizational commitment, planning and resources.
From Simple to Complex Collaborations

Collaborations can be simple…
A pan Canadian network of girls programs convenes front line staff once a month using audio conferencing to discuss creative approaches and tools for evaluation.

More complicated…
A network of addiction and mental health organizations develops a system map to increase their knowledge of services in their community and their collective capacity to meet needs. The map is used to inform recommendations for system change.

Or more complex…
A group of community health centres across neighbouring counties consolidates their information technology and data management policies and services into a single joint service. The CHC’s Executive Directors manage the shared services based on an in depth collaboration agreement.