People engage in collaboration for a number of good reasons:
  1. A problem may seem larger than can be addressed with just one organization’s expertise
  2. Limited resources may force organizations to think about how they can pool efforts and resources
  3. An external force may require collaboration – for example, a funder, or a joint powers board
Regardless of the reasons people decide to collaborate, working together can be a positive experience and have distinct advantages for each partnering organization. In research we did with Safe Schools/Healthy Students grantees between 2005 and 2007, we learned that organizations had readily available evidence of improved trust, increased capacity and enhanced programs and services. Many were beginning to evaluate improved participant outcomes and system changes, but found the process of isolating the outcomes of the collaborative (as opposed to their individual efforts) complex and resource-intense. From this research, we developed a model showing the advantages that are specific to collaboration.

Figure 1: Model of collaborative advantage

  © 2006, the Improve Group Not all collaborations are effective, however. In order to achieve these outcomes, collaborative efforts must have a combination of factors that build individual members’ commitments to the collaboration and help the collaboration achieve results. Hanna Cooper, a certified team coach based in St. Paul, cites fourteen characteristics of high-performing teams.[1] The highlighted items were referenced frequently in our research.   Note that camaraderie and communication are also strengths of high-performing teams, and maybe some of the best motivators for individuals to participate in collaborative efforts. Your colleagues might be more willing to contribute to the work if some fun and relationship-building is incorporated. You may be part of several collaborations: across departments in a large organization, with agencies that have similar services, or with agencies with very different services who are serving the same population or addressing the same problems. Reflecting on the advantages you gain as a collaborative and the strengths you should build as a team can help you make a greater impact. To learn more, join us at our next interactive, online, free chat for nonprofit and public leaders. Our next chat, Making the Most of Partnerships and Collaboration, is on Wednesday, September 8th from 8:30-9:30 am. To attend, RSVP to
[1] Based on those identified in the Team Diagnostic™ Assessment,