Best Practices in Collaboration

Cross-sector collaboration offers great opportunity for innovation and insight. It can also be hard. The following suggestions and examples can help participating organizations and individuals approach collaboration in an effective way.

Facilitating Cross-Sector Collaboration

Foster an Open and Dynamic Community of Practice

We are building a new community that requires nurturing and a new way of thinking and acting. We do this if we:

  • Develop cross-sector relationships at the individual and organizational level. Collaboration requires trust and may feel risky at times. Strong personal relationships often provide the necessary foundation for organizational collaborations.
  • Allow time to work its magic. While differences may seem more pronounced than similarities at first, deeply shared interests can emerge over time.
  • Focus on shared fundamentals, ignoring superficial differences. While the archives, libraries, and museums fields have their unique characteristics, the Coalition is proof that they share much in common. Sometimes it’s important to see beyond differences in vocabulary or organizational structure to see the common challenges and opportunities we face.
  • Ask questions and share insights, expertise, and best practices. The Coalition is ultimately about learning from one another, creating a repository of shared information, tools, and learnings, from best practices to transparent information about current continuing education and professional development offerings and needs.
  • Are not afraid to think small. Leverage small wins to demonstrate proof of concept and deepen productive relationships. While it’s important to dream big, small successes can go a long way towards making collaboration practiced and easy.

Embrace Collaboration at the Organizational Level

It is critical that participating organizations, not just individuals, support a collaborative approach. Our organizations do this if they:

  • Vocally champion collaboration. Advocate for collaboration internally and externally, giving permission and encouragement to others. Celebrate collaborative efforts, both failures and successes.
  • Adapt to a world that favors collaboration. Participants in the Coalition believe collaboration is an imperative. Organizations that collaborate will ultimately be more successful and enduring, but embracing collaboration may involve changing some long-standing business models. Learning organizations that can adapt to new opportunities will be most able to embrace a collaborative approach.
  • Give collaboration a home. Inter-agency and inter-disciplinary collaboration needs to “live” somewhere in an organization. Make it someone’s responsibility to ensure it gets the attention it needs and to make sure others know where to go when they have questions or see collaborative opportunities.
  • Align internal incentives. Individual staff members and business units will respond to what is measured and rewarded. Collaboration may not be rewarded under current measures, requiring an evaluation of these systems.

Implementing Cross-Sector Collaboration

The following practices stem from Coalition experience in delivering cross-sector CE/PD. More information is contained in examples of successful collaboration described below.

Marketing and Branding

  • Co-marketing can broaden the audience. The Coalition creates a natural network for promoting cross-sector CE/PD opportunities. Many participants in offerings to date have been affiliated with an existing Coalition member organization.
  • Branding issues need to be clarified early on. Determine which logo(s) and branding will be used.

Content

  • Vocabulary matters. It is important to keep in mind that different sectors may use different vocabulary to describe similar concepts, an example being the use of “continuing education” or “professional development.” Be aware of this and take steps to mitigate any confusion that may arise.
  • Use existing resources. It can help to have a pre-existing curriculum and subject matter expertise. Adaption of material will most likely be necessary to make it accessible to a cross-sector audience, but having a good start point is helpful.
  • Use the delivery of the CE/PD as a learning opportunity itself. Share cross-sector and cross-organizational practices around webinar design and delivery and learn from each other.

Roles and Expectations

  • Define roles and expectations. Clearly define specific roles and expectations up front so that involved individuals and organizations understand the commitments they have made.

As in Life…

  • A sense of humor goes a long way.

Examples of Successful Cross-Sector Collaboration

The Coalition community has demonstrated the value of cross-sector collaboration in a number of endeavors, including the Project Management 101 webinars, the Stories of Inclusion accessibility webinars, and the Mapping the Landscapes needs assessment effort. For more information and best practices surfaced from these collaboration, click on the links below: