Collaboration : Change your thinking

individual input 
rather than
'collective positioning'. 
(no group-think, no party-line', no closed vote) 

Effective : Experimental and field research confirms that “individuals temporarily caught in a social-dilemma structure are likely to invest resources to innovate and change the structure itself in order to improve joint outcomes.

Sustainable : Learning occurs through a continuous trial-and-error process until a rule system is evolved that individual participants consider yields substantial net benefits.

The traditional process framework for collaboration is based on the achievement of strategic goals as perceived by competing collective interests; it is linear and suggests that collaboration occurs over time as collectives interact formally and informally through repetitive sequences of negotiation, development of commitments, and execution of those commitments.
This collaboration process can be described in terms of a continuum of stages, involving problem setting,  direction setting,  and implementation. It is a continuum of strategies - 'coordinated cooperation among competing collectives' aimed at 'bettering the community'    

Integrated Collaboration is a process in which autonomous actors who like their 'collective counter-parts' interact through formal and informal negotiation, and jointly creating rules and structures governing their relationships and ways to act or decide on the issues that brought them together to find mutually beneficial solutions. Integrated Collaboration aims to improve the collaboration process across the collective dive to ensure mutual benefit for all concerned. 

Integrated collaboration has the added incentive as a process involving shared norms and mutually beneficial interactions among individuals. It is a higher-order level of collective action than cooperation or coordination. Cooperation and collaboration differ in terms of their depth of interaction, level of integration, commitment, and complexity. Although both cooperation and coordination occur as part of the early process of collaboration, collaboration represents a longer-term integrated process.

Collaborative individuals
  • see different aspects of a problem
  • constructively explore their differences
  • search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible
  • and implement those solutions jointly.

In contrast to the ease with which one might describe cooperation, metaphors are frequently used to describe collaboration, such as “the combination of hydrogen and oxygen atoms to form water,” and “combining yellow and green circles to form a larger blue circle.”

To help summarize the distinction it’s helpful to think of collaboration as a balance of cooperation and coordination. It’s not coordination, it’s not cooperation. Cooperation involves reciprocities, exchange of resources not necessarily symmetrical. Cooperation for a mutual goal moves this to integrated collaboration. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. While the integrated collaboration will achieve individual ends, but there’s an additional outcome that is shared (though not mutually exclusive) separate from the individual

In order to arrive at that “additional outcome that is shared and separate from individual ends,” we must understand and consider the multidimensional nature of collaboration.

The emergent framework for thinking about an integrated process of collaboration among individuals is to consider the process as iterative and cyclical rather than linear. Using this logic,
  • if organizations engaged in collaboration can negotiate minimal, harmonious expectations regarding their collective action,
  • then they will commit to an initial course of action.
  • if the collective action is executed in a reciprocal fashion,
  • then participating organizations will continue or expand their mutual commitments.
  • if these commitments are not implemented in a reciprocal fashion,
  • then participants will initiate corrective measures either through renegotiation or by reducing their commitments.

The extent to which organizations exercise their voice or exit often depends on the extent to which they have an aggregative (collective) or an integrative perspective on collaboration.

In order for optimum collaboration to evolve, the integrative elements that are manifested in
  • personal relationships,
  • psychological contracts,
  • and informal understandings and commitments;

must replace the collective elements found in formal organizational roles and legal contracts.
Finding the right balance between integration and collective — not relying on formal institutional structures such as memoranda of agreement and standard operating procedures — is the key to sustaining collaboration over time.

A Multidimensional Model of Collaboration

The achievement of shared outcomes implies interactive processes rather than stepwise movement from one phase to another each of which implies a messy, contradictory, dynamic process that is defined by multiple view points and unintended outcomes.

The principal elements of integrated collaboration involve  interdependence,  dealing constructively with differences to arrive at solutions,  joint ownership of decisions,  and collective responsibility. Integrated collaboration among individuals require explicit and voluntary membership.  The essence of integrated collaboration processes can be distilled into five key components.  
  • two are structural dimensions (governing and administering),
  • two are dimensions of social capital (mutuality and norms),
  • and one is an agency dimension (organizational autonomy).
While each component is a distinct variable, they are interdependent in the sense that movement from one dimension to another does not necessarily occur sequentially. Instead, the compnents are part of a larger covariance model in which variations in each is influenced by variation in the others. Variations depend on a wide variety of factors, including but not limited to internal relationships, and external factors such as existing conditions, uncertainty, ambiguity, shifting membership, and multiple accountabilities;  

The challenge for public officials and partners in collaboration is to seek a balance among the components – governing, administration, mutuality, norms, organisational autonomy - through mutual accommodation and incentives for renegotiation.

The collective action of individuals perspective, is a particularly useful way to think about the process of collaboration. Movement along the five dimensions occurs as partners try to solve the collective action problem of changing a situation “from one in which appropriators act independently to one in which they adopt coordinated strategies to obtain higher joint benefits or reduce their joint harm.

These five key dimensions are critical pieces of the puzzle, and public officials and their partners in collaboration need to balance them in order to solve this collective action problem.

Integrated collaboration exhibits high levels of
  • joint decision making,
  • administration,
  • mutuality,
  • and trust

and fairly low levels of tension between individual and collective interests.

Achieving high levels of collaboration in a 'collective – driven' environment is difficult; Research on self-governance of common pool resources suggests that instead of presuming that optimal institutional solutions can be designed easily and imposed at a low cost by external authorities, getting the institutions right is a difficult, time-consuming, conflict-ridden process.

The first key component of integrate collaboration is
The Process of Collaborative Governing. ... to be continued : )