Over 100 grants have been made by the WTMF since its launch in 2009. The number of organisations collaborating on an initiative can be more than 10 – so we get lots of valuable feedback on how successful collaborations work. Here are some key findings to help you work together with others.
Why do organisations collaborate?
- Prompted by change in funding environment
- Potential to save money/share costs
- To meet a need identified by the community
- A desire to provide better, more effective services and/or extend reach
- A desire to integrate services or reduce duplication
- A desire to share expertise and resources
- A shared vision
- A commitment to collaboration – ‘we were already doing it’ and ‘it just makes sense’
How were funds spent?
- Hui/Workshops run by several groups to establish objectives, MOU’s, develop systems, discuss potential, organisational values, reduce overlap and refine systems
- Independent Facilitator/Consultant to facilitate workshops or drive initiatives. They assist groups in participating equally in the process. Many groups considered it essential to utilise outside expertise to challenge ‘group think’ and remain impartial and objective. It’s hard to keep collaboration on the radar when it’s on top of a normal workload. Consultants gave advice and assisted with the process or setting up of systems.
- Providing funding so groups could bring in skilled people to assist
- Allowing timeout from normal activities to really explore options and issues often resulting in groups emerging stronger, more cohesive and effective
- Regardless of the outcome, groups reported a better understanding of organisations in their community, improved communication and a willingness to work together.
What were the challenges?
- Patch Protection…while the idea of collaboration seemed great on paper the reality made some people feel threatened and anxious about losing the uniqueness of their organisation
- Resistance to change or a strong belief that ‘things were okay the way they were’ slowed the process for some initiatives or changed strategies in others
- Most groups underestimated the time needed for an initiative – for some the lack of time or funds to commit caused an initiative to stall.
What was learnt about collaboration?
- Never assume everyone is ‘on the same page’ – we didn’t even have a common understanding of our purpose, so had to go right back to square one
- Keep an open mind and allow others to challenge your ideas, processes etc
- Be willing to work in the best interests of the group/clients/objective no matter what the short term disruption/damage may be
- It’s hard to keep collaboration on the radar when it’s ‘on top of’ your normal work
- Developing teams takes time
- Collaboration is complex and different every time
- Decision making tends to be slower and more cautious