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Collaborative community efforts are constructive responses to creating caring communities and expanding the safety net for children, youth and families. (National Commission on Children, 1991; Dryfoos, 1990; Meszaros, 1993). The goal of community collaboration is to bring individuals and members of communities, agencies and organizations together in an atmosphere of support to systematically solve existing and emerging problems that could not be solved by one group alone. While this is easily “said,” experience shows that it is not easily “done.” It has been likened to “teaching dinosaurs to do ballet” (Schlechty in DeBevoise, 1986, p. 12).
Understanding the complexities of collaboration and applying the key elements involved in collaboration increases the likelihood of achieving shared goals and outcomes. To assist citizens and practitioners in their collaborative efforts, the National Network for Collaboration has created a Collaboration Framework.
The Collaboration Framework is designed to help individuals and practitioners who are either starting collaborations, or need help in strengthening an existing collaboration. Specifically, the Framework assists people, groups and organizations to achieve clearly defined outcomes. Drawing from a diversity of people and opinions, the Framework is based on a Core Foundation Core Foundation of shared vision, mission, principles and values. It clarifies the Factors Factors, both Process Process and Contextual Contextual, which can either promote or inhibit the effectiveness of a collaboration which, in turn, affects its desired Outcomes .
The Framework can be used as a tool while developing and sustaining collaborations. While, those involved in collaborations often describe it as being “on a journey,” the Framework may be used to define the shortest and safest route. For individuals starting a collaborative journey, the Framework can serve as a guide. Utilizing the Process and Contextual Factors will define routes in reaching specific Outcomes. Once a collaboration has been established, the Framework may be used as a diagnostic tool to evaluate the continued development and expansion of the group.
The Collaboration Framework has been developed through the collaborative efforts of eleven Land Grant Universities and the Cooperative States Research Education and Extension Service (CSREES). It utilizes knowledge and expertise of specialists who have researched collaborations and experienced sustaining collaborations within communities.