Step Four: Establishing a Collaborative Relationship
Although described as a separate step, establishing (and maintaining) a collaborative relationship is an ongoing process. It begins in the early stages of team development and continues throughout the life of the team. Collaboration implies a willingness on the part of organizations to change the way services are delivered by-
jointly developing and agreeing to a set of common goals and directions;
sharing responsibility for obtaining those goals; and
working together to achieve those goals, using the expertise of each collaborator (Bruner 1991, p. 6).
Initially, partners may not be ready for a collaborative relationship. Instead, they may work together cooperatively to help each other meet their respective organizational goals without making any tangible changes in the way they deliver services or in their operating procedures. However, unless these cooperative relationships become increasingly collaborative in nature, no changes will occur in the service delivery system (Melaville and Blank 1991).
Factors Contributing to Collaboration
- A number of factors contribute to collaborative linkages:
- Regular contact through purposeful meetings
- Frequent communication through telephone calls and mail
- A focus that is client centered (rather than organizational)
- Leadership that helps develop and maintain a shared vision
- A plan that delineates shared goals and objectives (Because the plan is the key factor in establishing a collaborative relationship, the next step is devoted to it.)
- Appropriate agency representation on the team to execute the plan
By attending to these factors, you can help ensure that the work of the team is more collaborative than cooperative in nature.
Questions to Consider in Step Four: Establishing a Collaborative Relationship
1. Will the existing relationships among the agencies represented on the team support a collaborative-rather than cooperative-effort?
2. What can be done to ensure that the linkage team will be collaborative rather than merely cooperative?
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