Collaborative Problem Solving

Strategy Overview

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It is increasingly difficult to craft plans, policies, and programs that are regarded as legitimate and sustainable without the direct engagement of representatives from multiple agencies, corporations, and non-governmental organizations.  Cross-sector collaborations of this type are designed to engage well-informed stakeholders in a process of sustained problem solving; the end product is often a policy document that can help to establish legislation, regulations, and standards.

This strategy requires that participants understand the logic of each stage of the process in order to build commitment toward a consensus perspective. Group members engage in clarifying the problem, analyzing potential strategies, crafting recommendations, evaluating draft documents, and delivering a report for which there is a high level of consensus and commitment.

An issue that is of sufficient importance and a convener who is of sufficient stature are among the critical success factors that will mobilize the necessary resources and participants for a  cross-sector collaboration of this type.

Cross-sector collaboration provides both the forum and the strategy for engaging the most knowledgeable stakeholders in sustained problem solving.

Stage 1: Clarify Intentions
Identify the expectations of conveners to help them envision how the process might be organized, who might be participating, what time and resources will likely be required, and what the outcomes might be.

Stage 2: Background Inquiry
Gather first– and second-hand background information to determine which issues should figure into the tailored design of a collaborative process.

Stage 3: Process Design
Develop a provisional process design explaining the logic and outputs of each phase in order to garner participants’ early commitment to the process and the products.

Stage 4: Group Launch
Introduce the participants and process, and start building trust and confidence by collaborating on a group charter and amending the process plan to reflect group concerns.

Stage 5: Issue Analysis
Develop a shared understanding of the issue and identify those aspects that are most amenable to intervention.

Stage 6: Generate Options
Identify and analyze a range of alternative strategies for addressing a problem or taking advantage of an opportunity.

Stage 7: Evaluate Options
Evaluate strategies and choose between them using criteria the group selects.

Stage 8: Produce Documents
Develop a plan, set of recommendations, or policy document that describes the strategy the group has developed, the rationale for the strategy, and the process by which it was developed.

Stage 9: Executive Review
Present and explain the report to the executive or convener in a way that it is understood, accepted, and supported.

Related Examples

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