The Basics of Collaboration : Guide to Effective Partnerships
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Table of Contents
The Basics of Collaboration presents a general overview of best practices for groups or individuals who want to collaborate with others, and is targeted to people involved with economic development in rural Ontario.
The resource may be useful for:
While this publication has a rural Ontario focus, the underlying concepts can be applied in many settings.
Rural Ontario is unique
When working on a project that pertains to rural Ontario, it is important to be aware of its unique circumstances:
What is it and why is it beneficial?
Collaboration is a process where groups or individuals partner with others and share a common purpose. These relationships are mutually beneficial.
As collaboration require some degree of effort, collaborators need to gain something from the process. Groups and in- dividuals will be stronger, more resilient and efficient when they collaborate because they will:
Facts about collaboration
According to a research study conducted by The Ontario Trillium Foundation, collaboration has four key characteristics:
Groups and individuals do not collaborate because they fear losing control. As a result, they are too protective and are unwilling to work together, especially those who have had negative experiences in the past. They fear that their information might be misused or their organization might not exist in the future. Collaboration does involve risk, especially when it is more complex. To overcome these fears, potential collaborators need to determine:
Are you or your organization ready to collaborate?
Willing to ...
Where do I start?
If your collaboration is stalling, consider a neutral third party to facilitate the process.
Importance of community engagement
It is important to involve the grassroots during a collaborative project. Although working exclusively with organizations might be more efficient, directly engaging the community provides a true sense of whether your project is capturing what people actually need, and shows respect for community members. In addition, you may gain evidence to support your project. With luck, your efforts will be rewarded with community buy-in as your project evolves. If it is not possible for you to engage directly, an alternative would be to engage with those who interact with the public on a regular basis.
Collaboration can range from sharing information to developing a solution for a systemic issue. The best way to categorize these types of collaborations is on a continuum, which is displayed in the diagram below.
This resource will focus on simple, coordinated and complex collaborations.
Simple collaboration is informal, short-term and requires limited commitment. The main intention is networking and sharing information, as well as developing mutual trust by building a relationship. The benefit of simple collaboration is that it is a good way to know what other groups are doing in the community. In addition, it provides a good stepping stone to building trust, creating potential for future collaboration on more complex issues. This form of collaboration limits risk because collaborators continue to make decisions independently and keep their resources separate.
What is required for simple collaborations?
Example of simple collaboration
A county, the local BIA and Chamber of Commerce came together on a quarterly basis to share their efforts towards economic development. The collaborators not only established a trusting relationship, but were able to better align their efforts based on the information shared.
Coordinated collaboration is appropriate when working on small projects. This collaboration is more formal, requires sharing of resources, and involves a measure of both risk and trust. However, collaborators retain their individual entities and do not create a new organization. The benefits of coordinated collaboration are that resources are not duplicated and the impact of the work reaches a larger audience, creating more significant change.
What is required for coordinated collaborations?
Example of coordinated collaborations
An agricultural advisory committee brought together tourism and economic development groups, small businesses and farmers to organize a tour for municipal officials to see economic development initiatives in the community, and to share successes and barriers. This collaboration led to changes in municipal by-laws to allow for greater retail space at on-farm wineries.
Complex collaboration, commonly referred to as collective impact, is a cross-sector approach to solving complex social issues that are too large for one organization to address in isolation. Since the collaboration is across multiple sectors, every collaborator uses their niche to contribute towards the solution, which leads to a noticeable impact.
What is required for complex collaborations?
Examples of complex collaborations
Growing world crops in Ontario
As Ontario becomes more ethnically diverse, there is a growing demand for ethnic produce, such as Chinese eggplant and okra. A research centre recognized the potential market and opportunity for Ontario. However, they knew they could not do it alone. A collaboration was formed with government agencies, seed companies, grocery stores, grower associations, produce distributors, post-secondary institutions, as well as ethnic associations and farmers. Each collaborator focused on their expertise, e.g., researching the feasibility of growing these world crops in our climate, encouraging farmers to grow them, and marketing the crops. This project has led to boosting the economy across the province, especially for farmers who have an innovative, competitive product.
High-skilled jobs in rural areas
A rural county was experiencing major skill and labour shortages. The lower and upper tier municipalities, as well as local small business centres, post-secondary institutions, newcomers and youth came together to form a workforce development partnership. This complex collaboration helped workers improve their qualifications, enabled students to make better career decisions based on labour market information, and integrated skilled newcomers into the community. People gained employment as a result.
This tree will help you determine which type of collaboration is most appropriate for you:
Your collaboration should identify what success means. Otherwise, there is no way to know whether the time, effort and resources dedicated to the collaboration were worthwhile. Here are two steps to define success:
Appendix A - Conflict resolution
Time : one hour
Here are four questions that should be addressed. Please keep in mind that it might require a lot of discussion to answer these questions.
Appendix B - Setting a common agenda
Time & Resources : 30 minutes per question, Flip chart paper and markers
Step One : Vision for the collaboration:
Step Two : Based on the information above, write down your three major priorities (feel free to modify).
Step Three: Based on the priorities above, write down a list of what is required to achieve the priorities.
Appendix C - Other resources
Below is a list of resources and programs offered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs that might be helpful once your collaboration has been formed.
It is important to have measures to determine whether your collaboration was efficient and effective. Furthermore, these measures help participants make informed decisions, create accountability and build consistency in the desired outcomes. In order to develop your performance measures, you need to: assess your agenda, build consensus on the goals of the collaboration, create a model of goals to achieve and how you plan to achieve them, and develop a list of performance indicators. We offer a program called "Performing Measures Resources" or "PMR". To learn more visit the webpage.
Economic Development Analysis Resources
Analyst is a web-based tool that combines multiple national data sources to provide data on Ontario regional economies and workforces in a format that is easy to access, understand and use. This tool is useful because it demonstrates the need for the area. To learn more, visit the Economic Development Analysis Resources webpage.
Community Economic Development 101
This is a free interactive workshop where your collaborators can learn the basics of economic development, and take away practical tools to help your community develop and implement an economic development strategy. To learn more, visit the Community Economic Development 101 wepage.
Strategic Planning Resource Manual
Strategic planning is a process that helps groups work towards a desired future by focusing energy and resources on shared goals. This is a useful process to consider once your collaboration has been formed. We have a step-by-step guide that leads groups through strategic planning. To learn more, visit the Introduction to Strategic Planning Resource Manual webpage.
Collaboration - partnerships with other groups or individuals who have a mutual purpose and benefit.
Collaborator - a group, organization or individual who is a partner within a collaboration.
Community engagement - the act of getting the grassroots and the general public that form the community involved in the activities.
Complex collaboration - also known as collective impact, a cross-sector approach to solving complex social is- sues that are too large for one organization to make their own isolated effort.
Coordinated collaboration - collaborations that are more formal, where collaborators work on small projects or ventures.
Grassroots - informal groups and/or associations formed by the general public.
Group - a formal or informal organization that has formed for a specific purpose.
Performance measures - used to aid the group in understanding, assessing, managing and improving what they are doing. They can provide the group with important information on its activities and results.
Simple collaboration - informal, short-term collaborations that entail limited commitment, with the intention of networking and sharing information, and developing mutual trust by relationship-building
Collective Impact Handout. Tamarack Institute. 2015.
Collective Impact Workshop - Brant Haldimand Norfolk Funders Network. The Collective Impact Opportunity: Building a Common Agenda through Community Engagement. Marg Kowalski. Innoweave. February 26, 2015.
North Etobicoke Local Immigration Partnership: Collaboration Toolkit. Nayar Consulting.
Definition and Characteristics of Authentic Collaboration. United Way Toronto.
Facts about Collaboration. United Way Toronto.
The material in The Basics of Collaboration has been adapted from a variety of resources from the following organizations: collaborationcoach.ca (developed by Capacity Builders, a division of the Ontario Community Support Association), the Tamarack Institute, and the Harwood Institute.
We thank all those who contributed to this project for the valuable feedback and insight they provided.
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