Collaboration

Collaborative practice models

Overview

Real collaboration is authentic working together across organisational boundaries toward common goals.

Harrington R. (Wasserman. L. N/D. Results of United Way’s Collaboration Learning Project. United Way of Greater Milwaukee).

There are various models of collaboration agencies may pursue. In this section we explore the degree of integration each model requires, the advantages and disadvantages and illustrate with accompanying case studies.

Two women working at computer in an office

Interagency meetings

Introduction

Interagency networks and groups have in the past been mostly informal collaborations usually between organisations and agencies working in a similar area of service delivery such as disability, mental health, youth or aged cared. This approach is very effective where there is management support, time allocation and strong leadership/role modeling.

Due to the increasing time and human resource issues for service providers today there has been a move to a more structured approach for Interagencies with groups developing agreed Terms of Reference that clearly define the role of the group and the outcomes expected from the time allocated.

Advantages

  • A critical mass can be developed to support advocacy and to hold sector events and activities.
  • Information can easily be shared across a number of services.
  • The groups can act as informal learning circles and Communities of Practice.
  • Regular interaction builds trust and reciprocity.
  • Formal collaborations may arise from connections made during networking.

Disadvantages

  • Services suffering from work overload may struggle to find the time for informal collaborative approaches (Munn. P. 2003). Empirically, evidence indicates that this is particularly true where there are no clearly stated outcomes for the organisation or client.
  • Competitive tendering may inhibit may inhibit collaboration between local services.

 

Community of practice

Introduction

Some Inter-agencies have valued added to the general benefits of networking by becoming Communities of Practice. Communities of Practice are groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

They become in effect Learning Networks focussed on improving outcomes for service users by:

  • sharing what they are learning in their day to day experiences
  • developing new approaches to more holistic support for service users
  • sharing resources and information
  • providing support and encouragement for network members.

The basic principles that underpin Communities of Practice are:

  • learning is social and comes from the things we do everyday
  • knowledge and activity are strongly connected
  • growth is nurtured and promoted.

Advantages

  • Connect people through their passion.
  • Connect people outside their ‘silos’.
  • Enable issues to be dealt with holistically.
  • Ensure input of everyone involved is valued.
  • Provide opportunity for flexibility and creativity (that is service pathways).
  • Support adaptability to change.
  • Build trust and reciprocity.
  • Enables the ongoing reflection, negotiation and learning to balance the tensions essential in seeking solutions to complex social problems.

Disadvantages

  • Require commitment and a real interest in learning from each other for them to work effectively.
  • Require people willing to acknowledge that service delivery can be improved using existing resources.

 

Co-location

Introduction

Organisations sharing expensive infrastructure. Co-location models of collaboration may be called “Service Hubs”, “Multi-Tenanted Service Centres”, “Service Clusters” and “one-stop-shops” and take a variety of forms. A variety of collaboration models are well suited to also incorporate co-location into their approach. These include: co-governance, amalgamation, co-operatives and the lead agency model.

  • Co-governance – a sub-committee based on an agreed number of representatives from each partnering agency provides the management and governance structure under the strategic oversight of one of the organisations acting as the auspicing body.
  • Amalgamation – partnering organisations merge to form a new entity which is made of an agreed number of representatives from the agencies involved.
  • The co-operative model – a legally register non-trading co-operative, managed by a board consisting of members from each individual incorporated association involved in the collaboration.
  • The lead agency model – the building lease is taken by a large organisation that then manages the premises with assistance from the management committees of the small organisations involved.

Advantages

  • Provide a one-stop-shop for service users and the community.
  • Enable organisations to minimise the budget allocation to premises.
  • Enable facilities such as training rooms to be shared.
  • Make it practical to share expensive resources such as data projectors.
  • Reduce worker isolation and may increase security.
  • Enable services to afford better accommodation.
  • Enhance capacity to improve referral and provide a more holistic service delivery.

Disadvantages

  • Lead agency carries high risk – lease/premises.
  • Very, specific and clear documented rules/protocols needed to address risk and define boundaries.
  • Risk of power imbalances.
  • If a service participating in the co-location closes, it can be difficult to find a replacement, particularly in rural communities.
  • Cost of building outfitting may be higher than expected.
  • Co-location in itself may not improve service delivery.
  • Locating suitable buildings can be difficult in many rural and regional communities.
  • Legal advice is recommend if you are thinking about being involved in a co-location.

Co-operative

Introduction

Although they are legally recognised entities, co-operatives have a different type of structure to companies, trusts, incorporated associations and other similar organisations. This is defined by a set of principles which shapes their character. The International Cooperative Alliance definition of co-operatives is:

“… an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned democratically controlled enterprise.”

The principles that define co-operatives include: self help, self responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Co-operative members agree to operate ethically bound by the values of openness, social responsibility and caring for others. There are more than 2,000 co-operatives in Australia and around 180 in Queensland, however only a relatively small number are based in the Community Sector.

Many organisations who choose to use the co-operative model to support their collaboration, do so because it offers a “flat” structure of governance with all members seen as equals and because of the approach’s intrinsic values and principles.

You can find out more information about becoming a co-operative and your legal obligations on the Office of Fair Trading website.

Advantages

  • Model incorporates intrinsic values and principles.
  • “Flat” governance structure.
  • Organisations can maintain autonomy.
  • Relationships can be strengthened.
  • Joint funding can be trialed.

Disadvantages

  • Time required to establish well.
  • May be human resource intensive in early stages.
  • Cost benefit may take time to show.
  • Relationships need effort to maintain.
  • One agency has to take the lead and responsibility for ensuring sound governance and risk management.
  • Some funding bodies do not initially acknowledge Cooperatives as a legal governance structure.

Auspicing

Introduction

When auspicing occurs, the auspicing organisation accepts legal responsibility for the organisation being ‘auspiced’ and may also undertake administrative tasks for that organisation. Further an auspicing body is an incorporated organisation and enables a non-incorporated group to apply for funding and grants. This means that the auspicing organisation receives the money on behalf of the unincorporated group and is responsible for making sure the project is completed and the money is accounted for (acquitted).

Advantages

  • Smaller unincorporated organisations may access funding from agencies and philanthropic sources without needing to become incorporated.
  • Can provide stronger voice around funding and advocacy.
  • Auspicing body can mentor and build capacity of smaller organisation so that it may become independent in future.

Disadvantages

  • Roles, responsibilities and authority need to be very well documented and clearly understood.
  • Problems may arise if both bodies want to compete for the same funding.
  • Issues may arise around confidentiality and privacy.
  • The process is at risk if the lead agency looses funding.
  • The auspiced organisation must ensure that the Auspicing Body has the real capacity to properly fulfill its role.
  • Potential loss of organisational identity for the smaller service.

 

Consortia/partnerships

Introduction

Two or more organisations agree to formally documenting an agreement about the role of each agency without merging and creating a new legal entity. Joint funding can be applied for without the individual agencies losing their autonomy.

Advantages

  • Organisations can maintain autonomy. This can be of particular advantage where small outreach services of large or statewide organisations wish to partner with other local services to share resources and improve outcomes for clients through a more holistic approach to service delivery.
  • Relationships can be strengthened.
  • Joint funding can be trialed.

Disadvantages

  • Relationships need effort to maintain.
  • One agency has to take the lead and responsibility for ensuring sound governance and risk management.

 

Mergers and amalgamations

Introduction

Organisations working in similar area of the sector join together to become a single larger organisation, merging their governance and administration tasks.

Advantages

  • Human resource efficiencies.
  • Spreading cost of premises.
  • May enable services to be spread over a wider geographic area.
  • Resource efficiencies.

Disadvantages

  • Legal advice is recommended if you are establishing a new group.
  • Loss of identity and autonomy.
  • Time and resource intensive.
  • Potential for clash of organisational values and cultures.
  • Clients may not be as well supported by the new entity – less personal.
  • Time required to develop and consolidate the new entity.
  • Efficiencies do not happen overnight and initially the process may place high time and resource demand on the collaborating services.

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