A Collaboration Incubator

Implementation and Spin-Off


Ensure that action plans are implemented, and that the activities become integrated into the long-term fabric of the community.

Building the execution into the collaboration process avoids — or at least mitigates — the risk that plans will “sit on the shelf” waiting for needed support or resources (and demoralize the participants who worked so hard to create the plans). Specifying who is responsible for execution — often through a formalized Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) — promotes follow-through. It helps when those who will be responsible for implementation have been part of the planning process, as they are likely to have developed more “buy-in” for the plan. In addition, when accountability and progress reports are part of the plan, there is a greater likelihood that the action steps will get done.

Providing periodic progress updates to the community and other agencies helps instill confidence in the planning process and an understanding of how the issue is being addressed. A final report is delivered and a set of recommendations is offered for future collaborative processes.

A successful collaborative process will contribute to a willingness to participate in future collaborations.

  • Confirm the management structure for the execution stage.
    • Determine if a new management structure is needed in light of the involvement of the implementing agencies. For example, should the MOA agencies be part of a steering committee that meets more frequently than the collaboration group that will be monitoring progress? Should the MOA agencies have more authority than the group itself?
    • Determine if there are needed changes in the facilitation of the collaboration group and any related committees.
  • Convene the group to monitor the execution stage.
    • Secure the commitment of continuing members.
    • If new members will be added to the group, help them get to know continuing group members and understand the process used to create the action plan.
    • Review the group charter and protocols; determine if any updates or revisions are needed at this stage, including any changes to the management/authority structure and the meeting schedule.
    • Review the plan to be executed. Ensure that all group members understand the vision, values, goals, strategies, action plans, activities, and measures of success.
    • Confirm the progress assessment and reporting schedule and determine how and by whom information will be gathered and reported.
    • Ascertain when the monitoring work of the execution group ends.
    • Review the communications plan and make any needed updates.
  • Prepare periodic reports that demonstrate the progress of the strategies being implemented.
    • Each lead agency and implementer will prepare periodic progress reports that include achievements and challenges encountered, as well as measures of success.
    • Review and discuss results reported. Discuss possible ways to address challenges and further progress.
    • If challenges continue over a period of time and progress is limited or lacking, determine if strategy changes are needed. Develop new action plans if called for.
  • Report progress in accordance with the communications plan.
    • Inform funders, elected officials, other agencies and the public about progress, using available information and “success measure” data.
  • Formalize the ending of the group’s monitoring process and the collaboration.
    • Develop a final report for the collaboration project with input from the group. Include a debriefing of the process and recommendations for future processes.
    • Secure agreement that the ongoing monitoring will be conducted by the implementing agencies.
    • At the conclusion of the group’s commitment and when activities have a
      permanent “home,” honor and celebrate the dedication and hard work of
      the collaboration group.
  • The creative process of developing the plan is more exciting, and generally far easier, than implementing it. Collaboration group members lose interest or become discouraged, especially when implementation is a long-term endeavor.
    New participants may need to be added to the collaboration group to bring in new energy for the execution phase. It will have to be decided who will make the decision regarding adding new members and how those people will be invited, oriented, and made to feel a part of the collaboration group. To sustain the interest of existing members, involve them in real work and communicate the value of their participation.
  • The initial charter doesn’t fit the needs of the execution stage.
    Review the charter, make changes as needed, and secure the ratification of the group overseeing execution. Changes in the management and authority structure are common at this stage. Ensure the monitoring group understands the new structure and authority.
  • Defining the end of the execution stage can be a challenge.
    Many plans are three to five years. Will the collaboration group continue to monitor the plan through its entire execution? This needs to be discussed and included as part of the action plan so that members are clear about the length of their commitment.
  • Sufficient funding is not available to support implementation or funding is withdrawn before implementation is completed.
    Be clear with groups upfront about the financial situation and communicate that persistent efforts are being made to fund the good work they are doing.
  • Some of those responsible for implementation understand the intention of the agreement, but have different views on how best to carry out some of its aspects.
    The specificity of the action plan may be helpful to mitigate this problem. However, the implementing organization may find it necessary to make some adjustments to the plan, whether it is to the timing or to specific steps involved. The facilitator needs to help the group understand that flexibility is needed, so long as the agreed-upon goal remains in place.
  • People tasked with implementing are not as well informed as the primary representative who was involved in the collaboration sessions.
    Presentations on the action plan with constituent groups are needed to increase understanding and buy-in. This is particularly true for agencies that will be implementers of the plan. Presentations can begin at the end of the action plan stage and continue into the execution stage.
  • Once the plan is completed, there is a lack of information about its progress or whether the plan is even being implemented.
    There is often a concern about whether progress in implementing the plan will continue after the collaboration incubator involvement has concluded. To mitigate this, informal reports and checkups throughout the period of the plan can be arranged and copies of progress reports can be requested. A communication strategy should be included as a part of the action plan and specifies whether periodic progress reports/annual reports/press releases will be issued to constituent groups. Whatever methods will be used, there needs to be clear agreement about who is responsible for carrying out these tasks.
  • It may be helpful for the implementing agencies to have an expanded role in determining the new management structure and in decision making.
  • If the execution will fall to a different facilitator, the new person must be oriented to the process that took place, to the resulting plan, and to the collaboration group. If a steering committee or management team is in place, it should be involved in the selection of a new facilitator.
  • There may be a change in political administration before the collaboration work is completed and political support may be needed to move forward on the outcomes. The facilitator and implementers need to build bridges from one administration to the next.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority awarded SMS Consulting a contract to assist each county in developing a tourism strategic plan. On Kauai, they worked closely with the County of Kauai Office of Economic Development. A 27-member advisory committee composed of representatives of government, business, the visitor industry and the community was formed to provide input into the plan. When completed, the Kauai Tourism Strategic Plan 2006–2015 consisted of an overview of the tourism sector and defined problem areas, seven priority objectives, 28 strategies, and a scorecard to measure progress. An accompanying document included a three-year action plan for each of the 28 strategies, with a total of 125 specific action steps detailing tasks to be accomplished. Upon completion of the plan, the County of Kauai awarded a one-year contract to Kauai Planning & Action Alliance to kick-start and coordinate the plan’s implementation.

At the start of the plan’s implementation, there were no funds available to support the plan’s activities. Advisory committee members were invited to serve as members of the Tourism Strategic Plan Implementation Team, and 12 agreed to serve. A lead individual was identified for each of the seven priority objectives. The action steps were reviewed and prioritized, with consideration given to what could be done in a three-year period, especially given the lack of additional funding. From this, a timeline was developed. The remaining steps were seen as future projects to be addressed after the three-year period. The Tourism Strategic Plan Implementation Team agreed to meet quarterly, working outside the meetings with other groups and agencies to carry out the action steps.

The leadership role to oversee the priority objectives was assumed by representatives of the County Office of Economic Development, Kauai Chamber of Commerce and Kauai Visitors Bureau. It was the lead person’s task to work with others involved in carrying out the action steps, and to monitor and communicate progress and challenges back to the Implementation Team. KPAA developed a quarterly progress reporting format to document outcomes.

At the end of the contract period, a year-one progress report was created describing outcomes. The report included a scorecard for each objective, showing the target and actual score. With the ending of KPAA’s one-year contract, the County Office of Economic Development assumed responsibility for coordination of the Implementation Team.

Related Examples

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