Two Critical Factors in Collaboration on Behalf of Children, Youth, and Families

By Perkins, Daniel F.; Borden, Lynne et al. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Two Critical Factors in Collaboration on Behalf of Children, Youth, and Families


Perkins, Daniel F., Borden, Lynne, Knox, Allyson, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


ABSTRACT

Communities are facing complex social issues that require comprehensive solutions. Collaborations are an example of a comprehensive approach to the challenges facing communities today. Scholars often recommend a collaborative approach; however, there are few empirical studies to guide our understanding of the factors involved in the collaborative process. This study attempts to provide empirical information regarding collaboration by conducting a case-study analysis of an educational collaboration. Specifically, the purpose of this case study was to identify the consistent interactive factors that emerged among collaborators. Several qualitative methods (i.e., key-informant interviews, observational data collection, and descriptive documentation) were used to identify consistent patterns in the data. Two major themes emerged from the analysis-communication and actualizing factors. These factors encompass several elements that were found to be essential for effective collaborative functioning. The overall factors and underlying elements are examined in terms of their implications for future research and practice.

Communities in the United States are facing complex social issues, such as poorly educated children, teenage pregnancy, and family violence (Lerner, 1995). These issues touch the lives of all individuals either directly, as within the family, or indirectly, as in increased educational and health care costs. The prevention, intervention, and treatment of social issues involve multiple systems, ranging from the individual and the family, to social service agencies, law enforcement, employers, courts, schools, and health care providers. Often, however, these systems work independently of each other and, consequently, are ineffective in fully addressing the social issues (Dryfoos, 1990, 1998).

Many individuals and groups recommend working together to form strong collaborative relationships to improve the present status and future well-being of children, families, and the communities in which they live (Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, 1992, 1995; Dryfoos, 1994; Ellison & Barbour, 1992; Perkins, Borden, & Hogue, 1998). Moreover, many local, state, and federal children, youth, and family initiatives now require collaboration among multiple sectors (Borden, 1998). Formally, collaborations are understood to be groups that bring together disparate parties with diverse perspectives and experiences (Gray, 1989) . However, there is not yet an extensive amount of empirical information about the collaborative process, that is, the "how to" of collaboration. The purpose of this investigation was to examine factors associated with the collaborative process.

COMMON FACTORS OF COLLABORATION

Many scholars have suggested that there are key features involved in collaboration (Ash, 1989; Caplan, 1989; DelPizzo, 1990; Gomez, 1990; Kull, 1991; Otterbourg & Timpane, 1996). Several scholars and practitioners have identified common factors and characteristics that influence a collaboration. For example, in their comprehensive review of collaborative factors, Hogue and associates from the National Network for Collaboration (1995) identified specific factors, such as leadership, communication, community development, and sustainability. In an empirical study, Keith and her colleagues (1993) identified five major characteristics: leadership, unity, communication, participation by citizens and informal organizations, and successful accomplishments. Finally, Borden (1997) has identified four factors: internal communication, external communication, membership, and goal setting. By conducting a case-study analysis of an educational collaboration, this investigation attempts to further explore the factors that promote or inhibit the collaborative process.

METHODS

By using ethnographic research techniques, data were collected from the initial stages of an educational collaboration's formation continuing through the first 20 months. …

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