A Collaboration Incubator

Organize and Mobilize


Develop a resource infrastructure; conduct additional research; design a comprehensive process; and secure commitments to participate.

Once key leaders have endorsed the project and funding is in place, efforts begin to organize the collaboration process and build a broader base of support. Broadening support often involves talking one-on-one with those who will be participating in or securing participation for the process. It may also call for additional exploration and assessment of the issue.

There are four primary goals for this stage:

  • Develop resource infrastructure (including advisers, information providers, technical support, and an outside facilitator, if needed).
  • Conduct additional research needed.
  • Design a comprehensive process.
  • Secure commitments to participate.

Generally, the best processes are designed with considerable detail, along with some built-in flexibility to respond to changing circumstances.

Key stakeholder input is a valuable element of this stage. Their support is often needed for the collaboration to be successful, even if they are not involved as participants.

  • Build support for the collaboration among those who will be involved in or impacted by the issue.
    • Determine who might be involved in the collaboration in some way: technical and cultural advisers; major stakeholders at the policy, program and issue level; and potential implementers of actions that may result.
    • Identify and meet with key stakeholders at the government agency, nonprofit, and community level to more fully explore the issue and discuss possible participants from a variety of perspectives. Who should be involved in the collaboration process? Are there any roadblocks or conflicts they can foresee?
    • Request support and assistance from those who will be called on to provide or receive information over the life of the process, and ensure they understand the purpose of the collaboration. Determine if a more formal commitment, such as a Memorandum of Agreement, will be needed.
  • Conduct or contract for additional research on the issue, if needed.
    • Follow-up on any additional research that may be needed (as gleaned from insights gained during the support-building phase).
  • Create a detailed project plan.
    • Consider the process that should be used by the group to enable them to: understand and probe the issue; consider causes, effects, and possible options; determine a plan for action based on the group’s best thinking; and create specific strategies to execute the plans developed. The framework for the plan is created before the content is added.
    • Create a project plan that includes group structure, anticipated meeting frequency, process activities, possible outcomes, timelines, stakeholders, and logistical needs.
  • Determine if an outside facilitator is needed and, if so, finalize contract for professional services.
    • For reasons that may have to do with neutrality, time, particular qualifications, it is sometimes necessary to retain the services of an outside facilitator.
  • Finalize core group participant list.
    • Include in the group of participants some representatives of organizations that may be involved in executing the plans that are developed.
  • Develop list of outside advisers.
    • Identify resource people with technical, professional, community or cultural expertise who could be called upon to participate as needed to assist during the process and determine how their involvement should be structured. Secure their services as needed.
  • Mobilize collaboration participants and the support needed for the process.
    • Extend invitations to those who will be part of the collaboration process; provide background materials that support the need for the collaboration, express the value of their involvement, and outline the extent of their commitment during the process. Use supportive community leaders as advocates for those who may be resistant or need additional encouragement.
    • Secure commitment to participate from those invited to be members of the collaboration leadership group.
  • Create a draft charter.
    • Charter should include project purpose, goals, scope, authority and decision making, roles and responsibilities, process design, project logistics, and ground rules. This draft document is created in advance for the group to discuss, revise, and endorse at the launch.
  • Create a draft communications and public relations plan.
    • Plan should outline how information about meetings will be distributed, how and with whom notes will be shared, who will speak to the media, how community meetings will be handled, and all issues relevant to communicating with the larger community in regard to the collaboration process.
  • Finding a meeting site that accommodates everyone’s need can be difficult.
    Ideally, the site should provide an environment that fosters good communication and provides: wall space to post easel paper and charts; good natural light (along with the ability to be darkened for computer presentations); tables and seating that can be moved for working in smaller work groups; and space for food and drink. Even better is a location with expansive, stunning surroundings … making it difficult to think small.
  • There is an increasing expectation for “green” meetings.
    While it takes more effort to organize, consideration should be given to making a meeting as green as possible – especially if working on sustainability issues! See the Tools section for some easy tips on BlueGreen meetings.
  • In inviting participants, who carries the message is often important.
    Key leaders can be great allies in securing the involvement of collaboration participants, especially if they are peers. The key leader can champion the project and convey the value of participation.
  • Decisions are needed about how cultural issues will be incorporated into the meetings.
    A pule is often a good way to honor the host culture and meeting location. Calling upon a kupuna from the area where the meeting is held may mitigate sensitivities about who offers the pule.
  • Communication procedures for meetings need to be developed.
    How will agendas and meeting materials be distributed? If by email, confirm that this is convenient for everyone who has accepted the invitation to participate. Will hard copies also be available?
  • Legal implications of open meetings law may need to be considered.*
    If the collaboration is government funded, regulations of the Sunshine Law may apply. Procedures may need to be established for posting the meeting notices publicly well in advance of the meetings and for making meeting minutes available to the public.

After assessing the viability of Kauai’s community indicators project and securing key leaders and the financial support needed, Kauai Planning & Action Alliance (KPAA) created a case statement that outlined the proposed process with these elements:

  • Project scope and purpose. The scope and purpose of the project was clearly defined, and the project was given a name. The purpose was expanded beyond simply reporting on progress to include indicator measures on important public issues.
  • Formation of a Community Indicators Advisory Committee. A committee composed of nonprofits, community groups, and state and county agencies from different island locations and sectors was formed to develop and guide the process. The committee was given the authority to define the indicators to be measured and many of the groups and agencies invited would also provide the data for the resulting report. A draft charter was developed with the intention that it would be ratified by the advisory committee.
  • Criteria for indicator selection. Based on the research done during the assessment phase, criteria for selecting indicators were drafted and subsequently confirmed with the advisory committee. The selection criteria were for indicators that: 
    • Would matter to the community
    • Would be relevant to public policy-making
    • Would motivate the public to action and engage the media
    • Would make use of information that is obtainable
    • Would be measurable, understandable, reliable, timely, and capable of showing change over time
  • Community input on draft indicators. Once the initial set of draft indicators was established by the advisory committee, feedback sessions were planned for three geographic areas of the island to solicit feedback on the indicators to determine if these reflected the issues that mattered most to Kauaians.
  • A call to action. The report included recommendations for the island’s decision makers that focused on activities they could undertake to ensure that trends moved in a desired direction.
  • Frequency of publication. The indicators report would be updated and published biennially.
  • Meeting schedule and decision making. A schedule of proposed meeting dates and the decision-making process for the advisory group was established.
  • Getting the word out. A draft promotion plan for the published report was created to be ratified by the advisory committee.

This case statement, detailing the process to be used, was included with the subsequent invitation to participate in the advisory committee and led to its mobilization.

Related Examples

Related Tools/Resources

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