Community Based Collaboration
Community Wellness Multiplied

From the Chandler Center for Community Leadership

The Chandler Center for Community Leadership is a collaboration of Oregon State University Extension service and Central Oregon Community College. The Center is committed to increasing community capacity to achieve positive change through education, communication, and information. Under partnerships and contracts, the Center offers technical assistance for citizens, governments, agencies, organizations and business. Since its founding in 1989, the Center has conducted projects throughout Oregon and in 15 states in the United States. Although this paper is written about Oregon, it is equally applicable to any state in the United States.

The Chandler Center for Community Leadership is concerned with the practical application of research, proven success, and action to solve community problems. Such problems are numerous and complex. Attention is centered on achieving positive community conditions, including: helping communities to become vision and mission driven, tailoring services to fit the community, developing preventative solutions, and emphasizing the value of citizen leadership, collaborative use of resources, and the democratic formation of public policy.

Table of Contents

Why Collaborate in the Community?
Nine Forces Shaping Community Collaboration
How Collaborations Enhance the Community
Community Linkages--Choices and Decisions (Table)
Foundations of Collaborations
Roles and Responsibilities
Systems Approach to Service Delivery
Challenges for Collaboration
Collaboration Multiplied
Next Steps


In democratic countries the science of associations is the mother science; the progress of all the rest depends upon the progress it has made.-- Alexis De Tocqueville 1835

Americans understand that their voices are stronger when they join with others who share the same vision. When community citizens, agency personnel and organization leaders, from the public and private sectors, all work together toward a common vision, they maximize their resources.

Community based collaboration is the process by which citizens, agencies, organizations, and businesses make formal, sustained commitments to work together to accomplish a shared vision. Community based collaboration requires a commitment to share decision-making and the allocation of human, physical and financial resources.

Taking a community based approach acknowledges that citizens are the key to the communities future.

When communities do not develop a pattern of collaboration, they diminish community development potential. Without collaboration lack of direction, win-lose behaviors, lack of commitment, and poor planning result -- all with negative effects within the community.

This is the first in a three part series to assist communities to effectively plan, develop and implement real community based collaboration -- which will have a direct impact on the lives and well-being of Oregonians.

Why Collaborate in the Community?


The world is undergoing dramatic changes -- producing global impacts which ultimately affect the children and families of Oregon. Oregonians are taking on new levels of commitment to address emerging problems and develop opportunities to improve the status and future well-being of children and families.

Collaborative efforts now appear in many places: public policy development, policy within funding organizations, organization charters, and economic development plans within the business community. All provide a base to obtain the "best bang for the buck" and build a sense of community.

The Purpose of Collaboration

Today's community environment dictates that citizens and providers of service develop effective ways to improve the use of limited resources. Communities seek positive benchmarks such as safety and security, educational success, and sound economic diversity. Community leaders, agency managers, and businesses are discovering the power of collaboration.

Simply put, collaboration involves two or more individuals working toward a desired outcome. Recognizing citizens as the community's most valuable resource unleashes people's creativity and acknowledges collaboration as the primary catalyst to move the community agenda.

Effective collaboration is characterized by win-win-win situations. Collaborating partners create flexible working environments where authority is shared, each person is challenged to do their best, and all are involved in the process of improving the outcome, the service, and the community condition. Collaborations solve problems and seize opportunities. Collaboration is dynamic and ever changing as it moves the community forward.

Nine Forces Shaping Community Collaboration

In these fast changing times, America is experiencing profound restructuring. The "Information Highway" forever changes how the average person gives and receives information and knowledge. After a decade of concentration on business and economic growth, the public agenda pendulum is swinging decisively in the direction of social concerns. Environmental degradation, deterioration of public infrastructure, pervasive homelessness, school dropouts, violence, lack of affordable housing, racial tensions, and extensive child poverty are issues that are gaining increased attention.

Nine trends in society support the growth of community based collaborations:

Shift to Community
The community is taking on more responsibility as the decentralization of government continues. More responsibility is given to the community for designing solutions to problems and issues.

Redefining Private and Public Roles
There is a blurring of the boundaries that have traditionally defined the roles of the public and private sectors, as well as individual versus institutional responsibilities.

As the federal budget deficit continues to constrain action on social problems, private sector firms are contracting to perform many traditional, government functions. Business is more directly involved in social issues and becoming a major player in an area once dominated by the public and volunteer sectors.

Policy Development
Public and private sector policy supports the merging of existing and new resources to focus on commonly defined issues. This is in direct contrast to traditional turf boundary resource distribution.

New Issues
New issues affecting children and their families are emerging at a faster pace than previously experienced. Often preexisting solutions do not exist.

Citizen Participation
Political activism, reflecting our maturing society, is more pragmatic and measured. More people are actively interested in doing "their part for the community." People who participate want two things: to make a positive impact and to grow personally from the experience.

Quality of Life - Wellness
Quality of life issues, particularly the health of children and families, are emerging as key areas of public concern.

Fragmentation of Services
Cooperation is replacing competition, however, fragmentation, unproductive competition, lack of communication and unplanned service delivery still exist.

Focus on Root Causes
A clearer understanding of youth development and the factors that dramatically increase the likelihood of successful growth to adulthood is evolving, and can be termed the ecology of youth development. An ecological perspective emphasizes the community is a vital part of each person's life. This recognizes the African proverb which states that "it takes a whole village to educate a child."

Shared Decisions
Traditional funding is shrinking. Organizations are examining the efficiencies gained by addressing common issues or jointly delivering similar services. Collaborations reduce duplication of cost and effort.

How Collaborations Enhance the Community

When community leaders, service delivery personnel, business representatives, youth and adults -- people and organizations who represent the fabric of the community -- come together in collaboration they move the community to greater strength. Collaboration creates an organizational environment that benefits everyone.

Such an environment promotes the opportunity for people to experience:

Understanding - An understanding of how their expertise and skill fit into the big picture, and a challenge to make significant contributions;
Belief - Belief in the community and in its desire to produce the best possible services;
Recognition - Recognition for their talents, experience, and contributions;
Diversity - Acceptance that diversity is an advantage to the community; and
Knowledge - Knowledge that each citizen and organization is important to the community.

As the community begins to partner, it develops a climate that recognizes and nurtures the collaboration. This climate cultivates problem solvers and opportunity seekers. Collaborations thrive on the belief that people are its most valuable resource. Successful collaborations foster other successful collaborations.

Choices and Decisions
Collaborations, coalitions, cooperation, networks and partnerships -- all present themselves as commonplace words today. It is important to recognize the differences and the value of each.

Before initiating a collaborative relationship, it is critical to understand the range of choices of community based linkages. In some cases a collaboration is the ideal relationship -- in other cases perhaps a coordination effort is appropriate. Existing linkages are often a good place to start moving toward collaboration. In one Oregon community, 32 different groups had been formed to address the issues surrounding teen pregnancy. Today, the community hosts two collaborations on teen pregnancy: one addresses community policy and the other, service policy.

Community Linkages--
Choices and Decisions.......
Levels Purpose Structure Process
  • Dialogue and common understanding
  • Clearinghouse for information
  • Create base of support
  • Non-hierarchical
  • Loose/flexible links
  • Roles loosely defined
  • Communication is primary link among members
  • Low key leadership
  • Minimal decision making
  • Little conflict
  • Informal communication
  • Match needs and provide coordination
  • Limit duplication of services
  • Ensure tasks are done
  • Central body of people as communication hub
  • Semi-formal links
  • Roles somewhat defined
  • Links are advisory
  • Little or no new financial resources
  • Facilitative leaders
  • Complex decision making
  • Some conflict
  • Formal communication within the central group
  • Share resources to address common issues
  • Merge resource base to create something new
  • Central body of people consists of decision makers
  • Roles defined
  • Links formalized
  • Group leverages/raises money
  • Autonomous leadership but focus is on issue
  • Group decision making in central and subgroups
  • Communication is frequent and clear
  • Share ideas and be willing to pull resources from existing systems
  • Develop commitment for a minimum of three years
  • All members involved in decision making
  • Roles and time defined
  • Links formal with written agreement
  • Group develops new resources and joint budget
  • Shared leadership
  • Decision making formal with all members
  • Communication is common and prioritized
  • Accomplish shared vision and impact benchmarks
  • Build interdependent system to address issues and opportunities
  • Consensus used in shared decision making
  • Roles, time and evaluation formalized
  • Links are formal and written in work assignments
  • Resources and joint budgets are developed
  • Leadership high, trust level high, productivity high
  • Ideas and decisions equally shared
  • Highly developed communication systems

Foundations of Collaborations

Vision what the collaborators want to accomplish and how they will use the collaboration to get there;
Commitment pledge to attain specific goals and benchmarks and to enhance the collaboration;
Leadership qualities include personal commitment, enjoyable involvement and determination to achieve the goals and benchmarks vital to the development and operation of the collaboration;
Action a plan to accomplish these goals and benchmarks, including responsibilities, resources and deadlines.

Vision is a clear picture of what can be. It creates the focus of what a collaboration can accomplish. Vision motivates and requires the partners to act. It fosters positive, creative and synergistic thinking. Benchmarks describe what community conditions will change as a result of reaching the vision.

Ideally, vision is created by all partners. The vision should establish the image of working together.

Commitment is an internal decision that a person or organization makes when they believe in the need for change and are willing to make it work. Commitment comes easy in an environment in which people have seen and been a part of success.

Commitment and vision are double threads, overlapping and reinforcing each other. People with commitment demonstrate a spirit to make things happen. Commitment is supported when each partner knows what to do, how to do it and when the work should be completed.

The best way to gain commitment from others is to model it, to give positive reinforcement to those who demonstrate it and to publicize partnering success.

Many collaborations begin with one, two or three people. As the collaboration grows and membership increases, it is important that each member perceives a sense of responsibility for the success of the collaboration.

To build trust, all partners within the collaboration must present their intentions and agendas honestly and openly. They must nurture the diversity of the collaboration as a strength. Leaders must understand and develop interconnecting systems for clear communication, trust building and the sharing of human and fiscal resources.

Collaborations often meld private and public service systems with business and civic groups. Leadership that respects the value of each partner, and the degree to which organizations can be flexible, and recognizes that some activities will be dropped in order to collaborate, is incredibly important to successful collaborations.

Certain leadership traits have been found to be common to successful collaborations. Strong determined leaders with the ability to seek resources, who know how to recruit the right people, consistently prove to be effective. The ability to seek resources has been ranked the most important quality of a leader: resources include human, financial and political support.

Vision, commitment and leadership weave together with the action plan. The action describes the specifics of who does what, when and how. Each partner within the collaboration takes responsibility for specific tasks and makes a commitment to carry them out.

The action plan can make or break the collaboration. Barriers include inadequate funding, resistance to involvement by a critical community sector, and turf issues. A well-designed action plan addresses these issues prior to the implementation.

A good action plan:

Sets goals and benchmarks
Identifies partner roles
Decides how to approach the issue or opportunity
Establishes time lines
Determines resources needed - not just what is in place
Decides what type of evaluation is needed
Documents agreement with partners

Roles and Responsibilities

Addressing the issues is just the first step, the easiest one. Now we must do the hard part-- acting on the ideas and following through with the delivery.-- Partner with Oregon Mentoring Collaboration

To move past tokenism into real collaboration, all partners must understand the interrelationships of their roles and responsibilities. This becomes a life-sustaining part of collaboration by building an environment that supports and encourages participation and commitment.

Unfortunately, there are no universal roles and responsibilities. Each collaboration must form its own to suit its needs. Recurring roles include:

Leader promotes the vision and direction
Coach encourages excellence
Trainer skill developer
Model demonstrates appropriate group behavior
Facilitator guides the process
Evaluator appraises results

Systems Approach to Service Delivery

Engaging in a "system wide approach" to service delivery presents itself in many names -- "seamless services," "comprehensive service system," or "total service delivery." All strive to achieve a system of support which addresses prevention, intervention and treatment services.

Collaborations can be successful in creating and mobilizing a system wide service delivery. Success depends on the authority and commitment of agencies and the business community, and the advocacy and support of citizens. There must be the drive and power to alter existing policies, develop new policies and continue to educate and provide activities to create awareness for the community.

Sustained system wide services are acknowledged through formal agreements and interdependent relationships within the community and with regional, state and national organizations. This approach builds support for what citizens value.

Challenges for Collaboration

Collaboration building is complex, and for most, a new adventure. It brings new challenges to communities, existing service delivery systems and the everyday lives of citizens.

Interviews with existing collaborations identify a host of challenges:

Resources Lack of ready funding resources and skill in creating new financial resources.
Commitment Resistance to involvement and commitment from key community sectors.
Turf Turf issues, often stemming from a lack of trust.
Conflict Personality conflicts within the collaboration.
Respect Building respect, understanding and trust.
Diversity Gaining an appropriate cross section of partners.
Communication Maintain open and frequent communication.
Facilitator Insuring a skilled facilitator is engaged with the group.

Collaboration Multiplied

The alternative to supplying "five easy quick steps to successful collaboration" is to explore common characteristics which multiply the effect of community based collaborations. The following characteristics have been found in many successful community based collaborations.

Outcomes and benchmarks Through consensus, all partners clearly and specifically define outcomes and benchmarks. All partners -- citizens, service providers, businesses -- must walk the same talk.
Agreement and commitment to impact Partners strive to improve one or more conditions within the community...for the long haul.
Roles are defined and clear Partners are more open minded, trusting, and willing to define their commitment and specific role.
Open to growth and change Partners are willing to "ask for what they want." This may be information, resources, skills, and authority.
Success acknowledged Partners support each other and acknowledge citizens and systems outside the group that support and help the collaboration.
Corrections During a flight from Portland to Japan a pilot makes approximately 487 in-flight course adjustments. Partners open to and accepting of change and adjustment will build and maintain a firm collaboration foundation.
Risk takers Partners acknowledge, understand, and share in risk taking thereby committing to change.
Embrace creativity Partners who represent a wide cross section of the community hold a common characteristic of never looking at an issue or opportunity in the same way. Many do not come to the table with preconceived notions of the "right way" to solve a problem. Creativity and synergy build collaborations with drive.
Credit Give credit where credit is due.
Evaluate the results Monitoring the effectiveness is making sure the rudder is in the water and the ship is on course.

Next Steps

This resource is designed to be a companion to additional resources. Other resources include information on specific collaborations, the use of coalitions and partnerships. Also, work teams to support communities in developing their collaboration.

The following two parts of this series address specifics on how to develop a community based collaboration and sustain it. Technical assistance for communities will be available after March 1, 1994. The assistance will focus on:

  1. Elements of building effective collaborations.
  2. Developing collaborative strategies and work plans.
  3. Facilitating and negotiating collaborations.

This information was developed by the Chandler Center for Community Leadership, a collaboration of the Oregon Commission on Children and Families, Oregon State University Extension Service and Central Oregon Community College. The Center developed the information from interviews with communities in Oregon and other states, evaluation of current collaborations and research from the following institutions:

Academy for Educational Development
Washington D.C.

Associates for Youth Development
Tucson, AZ

Global Vision Foundation
Washington D.C.

JGS Management Consultants, Inc.
New York, NY

Interagency Partnership to Connect Children and Families with Comprehensive Services Washington D.C.

Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI

Montana State University
Bozeman, MT

Ohio State University
Columbus, OH

Wilder Research Center
Saint Paul, MN

World Future Society
Bethesda, MD

The information was written by Teresa Hogue, and edited by Viviane Simon-Brown.

The Chandler Center for Community Leadership was established in 1992 in response to a compelling need to foster community-based leadership. The overall goal of the Center is to encourage individuals and community groups to take part in governing.

The Center focuses primarily--but not exclusively--on the development of public and private sector opportunites and supports for children, youth and their families.

The Chandler Center for Community Leadership is located at 2600 NW College Way, Bend, OR 97701-5998; Phone: 541.388.8361.

This project is funded in part by the United States Department of Justice, Office of the Justice and Juvenile Delinquency Prevention under Grant 92-JFCX0041

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