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Collaboration Quick Tips

Updated on December 27, 2015
Kathy Stutzman profile image

Kathy Stutzman has a passion for creating meaningful connections. Author, facilitator, leadership coach, public speaker, workshop trainer.

Growing a Collaborative Takes Time - But Is Worth The Effort

Why is it important to build a collaborative? Gathering motivated people and organizations who are focused on moving forward or focusing on resolving a community issue can create the momentum and social and human capital to get massive things accomplished by working together. These five strategies will help build a foundation upon which to build a successful collaborative.

Five Strategies For Success

  • Identify Key Stakeholders

  • Discover Motivations

  • Collaborate For Success

  • Sweat The Small Stuff

  • Evaluate

Use these five strategies to build a healthy collaborative in your community or organization.

Identify Key Stakeholders

Identify key stakeholders using the following strategies:

  • Make a list of people and organizations that are essential to collaboration
  • List people and organizations that are potential barriers
  • Ask “who gains?” “who loses?”, “who is doing something already and what are they doing?”, “who sees this issue as a problem?” and “ who is affected?”
  • Identify connections with those stakeholders
  • Connect with all identified stakeholders to share the goals and vision of the collaboration and invite them to an orientation or initial collaborative meeting.

Use a spreadsheet (see example below) to manage the information that is gathered and to monitor progress, responses and action related to contacts.

Do I really want to collaborate with someone who opposes the issue?

Healthy collaborations include a broad cross-section of views and opinions, which sometimes means including those with dissenting opinions and/or ideas.

Key Stakeholder Engagement Chart

Name of Identified Individual or Organization
Relationship to issue of the collaboration
Who is going to contact/engage the person
What do they have to offer?
How will they benefit?
Special considerations to & for their involvement
Comments from discussion
Use this chart to monitor and keep track of new and potential stakeholders for your collaboration. Update frequently.

Discover Motivations

Discover the motivations that will engage individuals:

  • Identify what each individual will gain, what interests them, and what they hope to accomplish by being part of the collaboration
  • Explore what they will need to participate—best times to meet, how long, during lunch, after work...
  • Learn about their expectations for participating
  • Ask if there are others they know of who should be involved
  • Invite them to participate
  • Honor your commitments to the participants, stay on track, on time, listen to their input, and honor and respect their participation every time they attend.

Collaborate for Success

Set-up the collaborative for success:

  • Develop a clear purpose and stay focused on that mission
  • Compile a list of individual motivations to be clear about self-interest; ask individuals to answer the questions “why am I here?” and “what do I hope to gain?”
  • Mutually decide on indicators of success
  • Clearly define roles, responsibilities and expectations and ensure that they are fair
  • Review vision, goals, expectations, roles and responsibilities at least bi-annually and conduct strategy sessions around any major shifts in focus
  • Post your mission statement on agendas, and have display at meetings.

Invite to Engage

Think about why you belong to a group or did you get involved? Chances are - someone invited you. Be that someone - invite others to participate. The invitation begins the engagement.

Working together

Collaboratives thrive when diverse ideas and opinions come together to work toward a common goal
Collaboratives thrive when diverse ideas and opinions come together to work toward a common goal

Sweat the Small Stuff

Those little details can make a big difference in building successful collaborations. Here are a few ways that you can make a big difference by paying attention to the little details:

  • Be creative about your collaborative meetings
  • Have an agenda, begin on time, end on time, provide name tents, notebooks
  • Facilitate so that all have a voice
  • Assign homework and follow-up on reporting back to the group
  • Provide opportunities for everyone to interact in a variety of manners
  • Organize content ahead of time so that meetings are relevant and interesting
  • Keep notes and minutes of meetings
  • Conduct orientations for new members to the group before they begin so that they are “caught-up” with the rest of the group

How Do You Know When You Are Welcome?

Think about how you feel when you walk into a meeting for the first time. What did the organizer do to help you know that you were expected? Welcome? A part of the group? A greeter, a name tag, a hand shake, directional signs, a cup of coffee...all small things that make a big difference in letting people know that they are welcome.


Evaluate the progress and direction of the collaborative at least annually. Here are some things that are important to review during the evaluation:

  • Review successes
  • Identify new strategies to move forward
  • Review the “why am I here?” and “what do I hope to accomplish?” lists
  • Identify areas that still need work
  • Develop strategy and goals for the next year
  • Ask participants for a renewal of commitment for the next year
  • Identify others whose participation will strengthen the vision and goals of the collaboration
  • Do not meet just to meet, strong collaborations are effective collaborations which requires active participation around relevant and meaningful work.

Create Meaningful Connections

Healthy collaboratives will take the time necessary to review and renew strategies, goals and commitment. It is important to follow the passion and if participants no longer have the passion or motivation to continue, thank them for their service and let them go while inviting and engaging others who are called to participate.

The Simple Things

Fresh flowers at the registration or head table are a small detail that  make people feel special and the brighten the meeting room.
Fresh flowers at the registration or head table are a small detail that make people feel special and the brighten the meeting room. | Source

Share your experiences

Following these five strategies will provide your collaboration with a foundation for success. You may find other strategies that work for your unique circumstances and I would love to hear your suggestions and success stories. If you would like to know more about building a successful collaborative, I stand ready. Collaboratives are such an important part of a rapid response to emerging issues, can help innovate new programs and can share and build promising practices. I look forward to learning about how your community is creating meaningful connections through collaboratives.


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