There are many ways of working together. One can distinguish three levels of intensity: cooperation, coordination and collaboration. See also Building and Framing a Campaign Alliance.
When an alliance is established, it must be clear who takes what types of decisions and how, so as to avoid confusion or gaps in responsibilities. Rules for conflict management should be included as well. Crises in collaboration most commonly arise over disagreements and uncertainty about the terms of engagement. Taking the time to establish these terms is a worthwhile investment, so that eventual lapses or gaps can be addressed before they cause disruption.
In an effective alliance, members relinquish some of their power to the alliance as a whole. As each organization tends to protect its own interests and ways of working, it can take time to agree on effective ways of working together. Alliances need to evolve and develop their strengths, often in an iterative process. Even in small alliances, it is recommended to formalize structures and procedures as pointed out above so as to prevent potentially damaging crises. Frequent contacts, sharing information, regular feed-back and celebration of even partial success sustain momentum in an alliance.
The “6 R’s” for maintaining engagement of all participants
You can address the R’s in a continuous process of formal and informal consultation and feed-back within a team or alliance:
Recognition – people want to be recognized for their contributions.
Respect – people want their values, culture, ideas and time to be respected and considered in the activities of the group.
Role – people want a clearly defined role in the coalition that makes them feel valuable.
Relationships – people want the opportunity to establish and build networks both personally and professionally for greater influence and support.
Reward – people expect the rewards of participating in a collaborative relationship to outweigh the costs.
Results – people respond to visible results that are clearly linked to outcomes important to them and that they can clearly link to their participation in the coalition.
Source: The Community Toolbox, Work Group for Community Health and Development, University of Kansas, USA.
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