Magazine article Policy & Practice

Designed for Success: A Blueprint for Group Collaboration

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Designed for Success: A Blueprint for Group Collaboration

Article excerpt

Successful collaboration goes beyond the right group of people being in the right place at the right time. It is the skill and dedication of each individual to the whole that empowers a group to create a product that can be adopted across multiple organizations and disciplines. Collaboration works best when the group has a cause that benefits every stakeholder and each person can respect fellow group members. Sometimes it takes a "blueprint" to build the basic structure for successful collaboration.

In child welfare, the bottom line used to refocus a group on a solution is always "what's in best interest of the child." To attain this outcome, a cross-agency working team in Illinois recently developed its own blueprint for collaboration. This group comprised individuals who represented various organizations and disciplines. Using this blueprint, group members developed a curriculum on facilitation skills designed to meet the needs of various state/private agencies and community groups.

This blueprint has five components: (1) Purpose; (2) Identification of stakeholders; (3) Criteria for stakeholder representation; (4) Climate; and (5) Outcome. Here is a description of their blueprint in action written by group members:

Purpose ... an essential agenda item at early group meetings is to clearly define a shared purpose for the work, with input from all stakeholders. The group must be clear on the mission and have as a goal that collaboration is a key to the process. We found those who could not comfortably collaborate opted out and selected a substitute that could collaborate to represent their discipline. It is critical to revisit the mission and goal several times during the initial phases of the process to ensure a continued commitment to collaboration.

Identification of stakeholders ... it is crucial to identify all groups that will benefit from or in some way be involved in the project to determine how each group will be represented. The downside of inclusiveness is the number of participants that need to be involved, and any previous unpleasant working relationships. Most people in public service do not like confrontation, but open and unemotional communication is a key to keeping the meeting and relationships moving forward.

Criteria for stakeholder representation ... a central criterion for stakeholder representation is a belief in the project itself. …

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