Although we often think of collaborative efforts as discrete activities, the reality is that participants are part of a broader system of organisations and/or groups. This system operates very differently from the way collaborative efforts need to operate. Therefore the organisations and/or groups in this broader system will have to make adjustments to accommodate the operations of collaborative networks, such as:
- establishing flexible recruitment and hiring processes that encourage cross-boundary working
- changing organisational norms and culture to support collaboration, in particular gearing reward systems toward collaboration
- including the requirement for collaborative behaviour in job descriptions, setting goals related to cross-boundary work, and acknowledging those who exhibit collaborative behaviours
- introducing arrangements that facilitate the work of the collaboration, for example, open access to funding and resource supports
- developing accountability and reporting regimes that reflect shared effort and responsibility, including performance indicators for collaborative behaviour and actions, the formation of shared revenue streams and establishing agreed reporting criteria.
These system-wide changes will be needed to legitimise and sustain the efforts of individuals working in collaborative networks. Formation of collaboration necessitates changes within and among participating organisations including:
- shifting emphasis from completing tasks to building and nurturing the relationships needed to facilitate joint work
- altering the structure and operation of the participating groups to reflect collaborative ideas
- encouraging shared decision making.
Finally, it should be remembered that any collaboration is as complex as the issues that it deals with; there is no one-size-fits-all model. Instead, successful collaboration rests on the ability of members and administrators to be aware of the key elements of collaboration provided here as a basis for responses that best fit their problem context.