Collaboration is one form of group working relationship. It is most effective in particular circumstances and can be challenging to implement. It is not appropriate in every situation.
The challenge for individuals and organisations is determining when to use collaboration. It is important to assess risks and, sometimes, to choose a simpler approach.
The ‘Farming Together Fact File 1’ presented three types of group working relationships: co-operation, co-ordination and collaboration. All three approaches can be effective. However, each has different purposes and is best used in different situations.
Sometimes, it is sufficient to share information, expertise and referrals (co-operation). Other projects might need more efficient alignment of existing resources (co-ordination). When new or radically different resources, systems and inter-group processes and taskforces are needed, collaboration is required.
Level of complexity
Collaborations are formed to solve complex problems. Problems which comprise multiple, interconnected elements are hard to untangle and can defy precise definition. Such problems do not have clear solutions and cut across policy and service agencies. Consequently, they require a holistic and integrated approach.
Sense of interdependency
Collaboration is best used by organisations that recognise the need to work together. By jointly developing knowledge, skills and resources, collaborators can meet both individual and collective goals. However, organisations that share a common goal or problem don’t always seek the same outcomes. Groups may have different agendas: financial security; increased profile; development of knowledge or capacity; new approaches; or expansion.
Willingness to change
Collaboration is used to change existing systems or create new ones. For this to happen, members must not only share resources, but also power and authority. Participants must be willing to change their attitudes and develop new working roles and relationships. Systemic change is risky. Group members must demonstrate ‘buy-in’ and legitimise change before it can occur. A commitment to sharing power and resources will help overcome resistance from organisations and stakeholders. Managers should carefully assess the capacity to change and adapt before establishing a collaboration.
Level of collective commitment
After reaching shared agreement on actions, collaborators must provide the resources necessary for ideas or solutions to be successful. Collective commitment to the new systems, processes, roles and relationships sustain the collaboration.