Factors Influencing the Success of Collaboration
Following are the twenty factors that influence the success of collaborations formed by nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and other organizations.The authors who identified these factors note: "Much of the research suggests that these factors can apply to collaborative efforts that link business organizations with nonprofit organizations as well."
1. Factors Related to the ENVIRONMENT
History of collaboration or cooperation in the community
A history of collaboration or cooperation exists in the community and offers the potential collaborative partners an understanding of the roles and expectations required in collaboration and enables them to trust the process.
Collaborative group seen as a legitimate leader in the community
The collaborative group (and by implication the agencies in the group)is perceived within the community as reliable and competent (at least related to the goals and activities it intends to accomplish.
Favorable political and social climate
Political leaders, opinion-makers, persons who control resources, and the general public support (or at least do not oppose) the mission of the collaborative group
2. Factors Related to MEMBERSHIP CHARACTERISTICS
Mutual respect, understanding, and trust
Members of the collaborative group share an understanding and respect for each other and their respective organizations: how they operate, their cultural norms and values, their limitations, and their expectations.
Appropriate cross section of members
To the extent that they are needed, the collaborative group includes representatives from each segment of the community who will beaffected by its activities.
Members see collaboration as in their self-interest
Collaborating partners believe that they will benefit from their involvement in the collaboration and that the advantages of membership will offset costs such as loss of autonomy and turf.
Ability to compromise
Collaborating partners are able to compromise, since the many decisions within a collaborative effort cannot possible fit the preferences ofevery member perfectly.
3. Factors Related to PROCESS AND STRUCTURE
Members share a stake in both process and outcome
Members of a collaborative group feel "ownership" of both the way the group works and the results or products of its work.
Multiple layers of participation
Every level (upper management, middle management, operations) within each partner organization has at least some representation and ongoing involvement in the collaborative initiative.
The collaborative group remains open to varied ways of organizing itself and accomplishing its work.
Development of clear roles and policy guidelines
The collaborating partners clearly understand their roles, rights, and responsibilities, and they understand how to carry out those responsibilities.
The collaborative group has the ability to sustain itself in the midst of major changes, even if it needs to change some major goals, members, etc., in order to deal with changing conditions.
Appropriate pace of development
The structure, resources, and activities of the collaborative group change over time to meet the needs of the group without overwhelming its capacity, at each point throughout the initiative.
4. Factors Related to COMMUNICATION
Open and frequent communication
Collaborative group members interact often, update one another, discuss issues openly, and convey all necessary information to one another and to people outside the group.
Established informal relationships and communication links
In addition to formal channels of communication, members establish personal connections (producing a better,more informed, and cohesive group working on a common project).
5. Factors Related to PURPOSE
Concrete, attainable goals and objectives
Goals and objectives of the collaborative group are clear to all partners, and can realistically be attained.
Collaborating partners have the same vision, with clearly agreed-upon mission, objectives, and strategy. The shared vision may exist at the outset of collaboration, or the partners may develop a vision as they work together.
The mission and goals, or approach, of the collaborative group differ, at least in part, from the mission and goals, or approach, of the member organizations.
6. Factors Related to RESOURCES
Sufficient funds, staff, materials, and time
The collaborative group has an adequate, consistent financial base, along with the staff and materials needed to support its operations. It allows sufficient time to achieve its goals and includes time to nurture the collaboration.
The individual who provides leadership for the collaborative group has organizing and interpersonal skills, and carries out the role with fairness. Because of these characteristics (and others), the leader is granted respect or "legitimacy" by the collaborative partners.
Adapted from Collaboration: What Makes It Work, 2nd ed., by Paul W. Mattessich, Marta Murray-Close, andBarbara Monsey, copyright 2001, Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. Used with permission. For more informationon Wilder Foundation publications, call 1-800-274-6024.